Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Seeing a legend perform

Itzhak Perlman is a legend, one of the very few classical musicians whom even those who do not follow classical music recognize.  I should know: I'm one of those people.  When we learned that Perlman was playing with the North Carolina Symphony in the local, lovely Meymandi Hall, we instantly bought the best tickets we could get.  Gina spotted the concert, and Scott was particularly excited, because he'd been a fan of Perlman's since he was a little boy.

I'm so very glad we went.

For the first forty-five minutes, the North Carolina Symphony played three very pretty pieces:  Berlioz's Roman Carnival Overture, Op. 9; Wagner's Prelude to Act I from Lohengrin; and Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien, Op. 45.  My ignorance of classical music is profound, so I knew none of these, but I enjoyed them all.

After the intermission, Perlman joined them, and the crowd went about as wild as a symphony audience in Raleigh is likely to get.  He made his way to his seat under his own power, using his crutches with slow, practiced moves that looked painful.  After he settled into his seat, they began a piece, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, that I have since learned is an insanely difficult composition to play and one that was the subject of great controversy for quite some years after Tchaikovsky wrote it.

Perlman was magnificent.  Playing everything from broad strokes to single, dangerously high notes, he made every sound lovely.  As he played, his expressions changed often.  For some stretches, he was clearly lost in the music, his eyes closed and his face almost slack. At other times, he smiled almost maniacally, his intensity matching and reinforcing the music's. 

When the third movement ended, the audience rose and delivered a standing ovation that brought him back three times.  I lack the musical vocabulary to appreciate fully his performance, but I stood with them, because the power and the beauty of what I heard had touched me so very much.

I am very lucky to have had the chance to see and listen to this legend.


Andy Finkel said...

That reminds me of my favorite Perlman story. Around 20 years, I saw Perlman do a bit on stage; after he finished a classical piece he took questions from the audience. The first question was from some guy who said "Well, you sound all right on that classical stuff, but how about some real American music ?"

Perlman said "sure", he hunched his back, shifted his grip on the violin, and gave a really excellent version of "Arkansas Traveler" (if I remember right). It was really amazing and surprised the hell out of the audience.


Mark said...

That is a very cool story. Thank you for telling it. I was obviously incredibly impressed with is performance.

Andy Finkel said...

He's definitely wonderful. Like you, I don't have a deep classical background either, so I knew I didn't understand his classical music to the extend it deserved...that's one reason I really appreciated his more approachable music, like his Klezmer (Jewish folk) music or the occasional old-timey tunes. He puts an amazing amount of emotion into the pieces, and they were technically brilliant. If you're motivated to seek out other Perlman concerts, you might give those a try.

Mark said...

Thanks for the tips.


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