Itzhak Perlman performed with the Vancouver Symphony on January 23, 2019 (Photo credit: Lisa Marie Mazzucco)
The Vancouver Symphony with penetrating insight from Perlman in Mendelssohn and Williams
By Alan Yu
January 24, 2019
The second half of the evening was undoubtedly dominated by the soloist, Itzhak Perlman. After going through the routine of taking his violin from the conductor and giving him his baton, he lost little time in launching into Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, Op 64. His purity of tone and velvety delivery stayed true to the composer’s intentions with little fanfare or overbearing flamboyance. It was as though he was merely a vehicle through which Mendelssohn was speaking to us. The suavity with which he navigated the virtuosic twists and turns of the first movement, especially the cadenza, belied an unrivalled depth of understanding, maturity and thoughtful refinement.
As the bassoon built the bridge into the Andante second movement, the pace slowed down markedly. Continuing in his self-effacing manner, Perlman’s penetrating insight had me shivering in my chair, truly experiencing the sheer impact of the music rather than just hearing it. The final movement shared the light-hearted joy of the finale in Schubert’s fifth symphony, but without its mischief. The interplay between the woodwinds and soloist was delightful and it was clear that both orchestra and soloist thoroughly enjoyed the frolicking. In the face of a soloist with such superb artistry as Perlman, the orchestra excelled nevertheless in providing unobtrusive and skillful support.
The true finale of the evening was a work John Williams had composed with Perlman in mind, much as Mendelssohn had done for Ferdinand David and Brahms for Joseph Joachim. The theme from the movie Schindler’s List is a fine example of a quiet but teary celebration of the indomitable human spirit in the face of extreme suffering. As Perlman teased out the duet with the harp, I kept thinking how he was himself a fine example of this spirit. We sent him off, as we had done welcoming him, with a well-deserved standing ovation and almost a teary farewell.
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