Itzhak Perlman is coming to Tucson on Tuesday, Jan. 14, to play Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra. Perlman has attained the status of superstar — a rarity for a classical musician. He has brought classical music to audiences worldwide through his presence on concert stages and through appearances on television, soundtrack recordings and film.
TSO Conductor and Musical Director George Hanson says he and the orchestra are excited about their upcoming collaboration with Perlman. “Itzhak Perlman is one of the greatest violinists of his generation,” says Hanson, “not only for the virtuosity of his violin playing, but for the standard of achievement he has established in the music world, both as a leader and as an ambassador for classical music.”
Born in Israel in 1945 to Polish immigrants, Perlman began playing the violin when he was 3 ½ years old. From his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show at age 13, the Israeli-American virtuoso has been wowing audiences with his technical brilliance, sensitive musicality and his infectious good humor. He has performed with every major orchestra in the world.
Perlman has been a familiar face on television shows ranging from Sesame Street to the Grammy Awards (he won a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the recording arts) and Academy Awards ceremonies. Perlman’s collaboration with film score composer John Williams resulted in his performing the theme music for Steven Spielberg’s movie “Schindler’s List.”
For his other film work, Perlman has won four Emmy Awards. One was for the PBS documentary “In the Fiddler’s House,” filmed in Poland and featuring Perlman returning to his Jewish roots by learning to play klezmer and then taking part in a klezmer music festival. His most recent Emmy was for another PBS documentary, “Fiddling for the Future.” It highlights Perlman’s ongoing role as teacher and mentor at the Perlman Music Program, which offers residencies and workshops in New York, Vermont, Florida and Israel. He also teaches violin at the Juilliard School at Lincoln Center in New York City.
Though struck with polio at age 4, Perlman has said that he never spent time sitting around bemoaning the disability that has curbed his physical mobility.
His presence onstage, supported by crutches or on a mobility scooter, speaks volumes on behalf of all disabled persons, a cause that is an integral part of his life. As recounted on Minnesota Public Radio, in 2001, Perlman fell face-down while mounting the podium to perform the Barber violin concerto with the Minnesota Orchestra. Waving off all offers of help, he slowly sat up, turned to the sold-out crowd and with a big smile on his face said, “And you think the piece I’m about to play is hard!” As he began the lengthy progression of maneuvers to work his way to standing, he asked the audience, “Do you want to wait?” Applauding enthusiastically, the audience conveyed its appreciation of his good humor.
Conductor Hanson says that Perlman is especially known in the music world for his communication and collaboration. “One of the benefits of having someone like Itzhak solo with us is that his artistry and playing influence the playing of the orchestra. Through his virtuosity and communication skills, our audience will see and hear the wonderful result of spontaneous collaboration — and that is the essence of true music-making: unified artistic vitality that expresses the feelings of the composer, the soloist, the conductor and the orchestra.”
A few tickets for the performance, which begins at 8 p.m., are still available at www.tucsonsymphony.com, the box office at 2175 N. Sixth Ave. or by calling 882-8585.
Renee Claire is a freelance writer in Tucson.