Itzhak Perlman, violin, with Rohan De Silva, piano. At UCSB’s Campbell Hall, Saturday, January 27.
Reviewed by Charles Donelan
Itzhak Perlman, gloriously relaxed and confident on a rainy Saturday at Campbell Hall, played an extraordinary concert that reminded everyone present not only of how great live music can be, but also of the living connection with history that attending such performances gives us. Every concert Perlman plays is part of an ongoing plan that balances his demand for self development with his sensitivity to the audiences he plays for. Perlman keeps a database of all his sets at all his performances, and on Saturday he brought a computer printout to remind him of his previous set lists in Santa Barbara going back for 30 years.
The works announced in the program were a fascinating mix of old and (relatively) new. Opening with Schubert’s Rondo for violin and piano in B Minor, Perlman found his pace with accompanist Rohan De Silva and began generating some of the phenomenal tone that he gets out of his “Soil” Stradivarius — considered by many to be the world’s finest violin. The second piece was the Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major, M. 8, by César Franck, which followed the Schubert in exploring the limits of traditional form. The “recitativo” was marked by vocalisms in the melody line, to which Perlman gave a particularly pleasing treatment.
After the interval, Perlman returned for the concert’s most ambitious work: the Three American Pieces of Lukas Foss. Composed by the Berlin native during the first decade of his exile in America, Three American Pieces is one of the greatest, and most undervalued, of the works written in the idiom of Americana so familiar from Aaron Copland. There are snatches of popular song, the sounds of jazz and bluegrass, and an expansive and vibrant development of the melody. Pianist Rohan De Silva did a wonderful job keeping the whole thing on track.
After such a diverse and intriguing concert, coming up with an impressive encore would seem like a challenge, but not for Itzhak Perlman, who plays encores better than anyone in the world. His choices for Saturday, of which there were no less than six, leaned heavily toward the work of violinist Fritz Kreisler: both his transcriptions for violin and his works “in the style of” various composers that Kreisler eventually acknowledged were actually his own originals. Perlman fairly sailed through these andantinos and caprices, using each one to showcase yet another aspect of his extraordinary mastery of the instrument.