Humor and musical soiree with Itzhak Perlman

By Truman C. Wang

Photo: Tallahassee Democrat

Photo: Tallahassee Democrat

Itzhak Perlman, the master violinist and the comedian, returned to the Walt Disney Concert Hall last night for a masterful program spanning three centuries of music, from Vivaldi to Stravinsky, and a fun-filled skit of jokes and encores. 

But most importantly, Mr. Perlman was not alone.  Sharing the stage was pianist Rohan de Silva, who evidently also shared the same jovial spirits and impeccable musicality.   Together, they had the give-and-take quality of good chamber music playing, as well as check-and-balance. 

In the Vivaldi Violin Sonata in A major, RV 31, Mr. Perlman captured the ‘capriccio’ nature of the piece with effortless virtuosity, at times boarding on reckless.  It was up to Mr. De Silva to bring his partner back on track and out of trouble.  This happened again in the Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 5 in F major (“Spring”) and in Schuman’s Opus 73 Fantasiestücke, where Mr. De Silva’s playing was full of romantic angst and subtle rhythmic inflections, and Mr. Perlman’s was enthusiastic to the point of being flippant.  One could not fault Mr. Perlman for his boundless enthusiasm, for his 1714 Stradivarius produced the most honeyed golden tones that ever fell on these ears.   One word about the Fantasiestücke, its nocturnal character sounds better with the clarinet, but the violin added a glitter and bright optimism that’s the hallmark of this concert.   

Post intermission, we heard Stravinsky’s neoclassical Suite Italienne, based on the tuneful ditties from Pergolesi’s operas and instrumental works, played with gusto and infectious charm by the Perlman-De Silva team.  The Gavotte with two variations was magical in its sleight-of-hand virtuosity.  The fast octave runs in the Finale brought the whole piece to a exhilarating, bubbly end.

Now came the fun part, five or six encores interspersed with Mr. Perlman’s inexhaustible supply of jokes pertaining to himself or the music at hand.  Seriously, he could be the Anna Russell of the violin.  There were the old familiar jokes about Kreisler and Franz Ries (that Opus 35 “Ries piece”) as well as the new one about the Suzuki Method (“I’m playing the advanced Book 5”).  A somber note was heard in John Williams’ theme from “Schindler’s List”, played with moving eloquence by Mr. Perlman. 

We will eagerly await Itzhak Perlman’s return to the Southland next year, and hopefully every year.

Truman C. Wang is Editor-in-Chief of Classical Voice, whose articles have appeared in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Pasadena Star-News, other Southern California publications, as well as the Hawaiian Chinese Daily.