Itzhak Perlman is a legend in his own lifetime, one of today’s greatest violinists and the recipient this week of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Gramophone Magazine. But now he has a surprising new role: lockdown hero. Through this bizarre year he has popped up on social media in a series of brief videos, telling jokes and playing short solo pieces. No wonder he’s clocked up more than six million views: he makes us laugh, cry and feel less alone. In many ways, he has been doing that all his life. When he beams into my Zoom screen, his image is so familiar that the only surprise is that I can actually speak to him.
This past Wednesday Gramophone Magazine honored Itzhak Perlman with the 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Talk of a ‘Lifetime Achievement’ has a finality about it, but the vital spark that is Itzhak Perlman shows no sign of dimming. As I write, he is celebrating his 75th birthday, yet in a recent interview he cheerfully told the Chicago Tribune: ‘I’m not thinking 75. When I pick up the violin, and I start playing, I say to myself: “Oh, 75 is pretty good. Things are still working!”’
He has been honoured by three American presidents – even playing ‘live’ at Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration (the performance was actually pre-recorded due to the cold weather) – and an Israeli prime minister. His recordings have garnered innumerable awards. His videos have won four Emmys. He has had three of the costliest fiddles at his disposal, by Stradivari, Guarneri del Gesù and Bergonzi.
Yet over and above this worldly success, he ranks among the great humanists of the string-playing sphere, alongside such names as Busch, Casals, Oistrakh Snr and Szigeti. He has too ready a sense of humour to be a saint or a high priest: still, he has borne bodily affliction with grace and dignity and has been both a role model and a spokesman for disabled people.
We British encountered Perlman in the late 1960s as one of a golden generation with Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré, Daniel Barenboim, Vladimir Ashkenazy and Zubin Mehta. Amid all the banter preserved on Christopher Nupen’s films, a quiet authority about his playing marked him out even in that company.
Itzhak Perlman’s home videos have been going viral with over 6+ million views across all of his social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram). The maestro shares another story to help brighten up your day!
Recently Itzhak Perlman was profiled by writer Howard Reich for the Chicago Tribune in honor of his upcoming 75th birthday.
“I’m not thinking 75,” says Itzhak Perlman nonchalantly. “When I pick up the violin, and I start playing, I say to myself: ‘Oh, 75 is pretty good. Things are still working!’”
Sony Classical releases the first-ever collection of Itzhak Perlman’s complete recordings for RCA and CBS/Sony in a single box set: 18 CDs spanning the years 1965 to 2012.
Itzhak Perlman has dominated the world of violin virtuosos for half a century. His TV appearances had already made him a household name in the US by the time he was 13. A few years later came his Carnegie Hall debut, then the prestigious Leventritt Award, followed by triumphant tours of Israel, North America and Europe between 1965 and 1968. By then he was an international celebrity and recognized “not just as the finest violinist of his generation but as one of the greatest musical talents to emerge since World War II” (leading string authority Tully Potter writing in the NEW GROVE).
New to Perlman CD editions are two complete soundtrack albums: John Williams’ “elegant and thoughtful score” for ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ in which the violinist is joined by Yo-Yo Ma and to which Perlman “brings a magical and peculiarly oriental sound to his violin-playing” (Gramophone), and the music for Yimou Zhang’s Hero by Tan Dun: “Few composers today write more effective melodies for bowed strings” (Gramophone). And to round off this uniquely wide-ranging survey of the violinist’s musical passions and triumphs, in its first appearance in a Perlman collection, the artist is joined by golden-voiced cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot in Eternal Echoes, a highly praised album of liturgical and traditional selections which the violinist has affectionately described as “Jewish comfort music – everything that I recognize from my childhood is in this program.”
The Sony Classical Box Set is available on CD and for download and streaming. Listen and order here.
On September 18, 2020, Warner Classics releases a 6 DVD box-set of important landmarks in Itzhak Perlman’s career with both the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
“I can actually see the sound in my head. I can actually see it… But each sound is different so this one has that sparkle, there is a sparkle to the sound.” (Itzhak Perlman)
With 16 Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and four Emmy Awards, Itzhak Perlman is one of the most important violinists of the second half of the 20th century. In celebration of his 75th birthday on 31 August, this 6 DVD box set highlights important landmarks in his career with both the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Apart from six outstanding concerts, the box set also includes the moving portrait “Virtuoso Violinist – I know I played every note” – a closely-observed account of Perlman’s early life and career.
The Itzhak Perlman Anniversary Box is available here.