In the Style of a Genius

Itzhak Perlman, violin, with Rohan De Silva, piano. At UCSB’s
Campbell Hall, Saturday, January 27.

Reviewed by Charles Donelan

Itzhak%20Perlman%20Web.jpgItzhak 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.


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