Perlman’s “richly expressive” Orange County performance

Perlman’s “richly expressive” Orange County performance

Itzhak Perlman has been a household name since his first TV appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1958. He repeats his Sunday O.C. concert on Tuesday in L.A. (Photo credit: Orange County Register)

Review: Perlman’s Segerstrom concert calms the storm
Orange County Register
By Paul Hodgins
January 23, 2017

Itzhak Perlman with pianist Rohan De Silva
When: Sunday Jan. 22, 2017
Where: Segerstrom Center for the Arts

Same program will be repeated in Los Angeles
When: Tuesday Jan. 24, 2017
Where: Disney Concert Hall
How much: $54-$85
Tickets: (323) 850-2000

Violinist Itzhak Perlman has been a consummate showman for almost 60 years, ever since he enthralled America with his combination of masterful technique and playful, charming personality as a preteen guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1958.

A crucial part of being a showman is knowing instinctively what an audience needs. On a stormy Sunday afternoon at Segerstrom Concert Hall, Perlman read his crowd perfectly.

Perlman’s program, as he mentioned in his recent Register interview, leaned toward ease and lyricism rather than Sturm und Drang. It felt like just the antidote for the turbulence coming out of the Pacific – and Washington. Perlman and pianist Rohan De Silva delivered the goods with offhand intimacy and a refreshing lack of stuffiness, as if they were playing in someone’s living room.

Beethoven and Stravinsky can deliver plenty of heaviness and angst, yet Perlman chose two of the sunnier pieces in their small-ensemble repertoire: the former’s sprightly “Spring Sonata” (No. 5 in F major, Op. 24) and the latter’s “Suite Italienne,” an arch neoclassical reinterpretation of 18th-century Italian manners and style.

Even Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 73, arguably the heaviest work of the program, lacks the drama of other work from this busy yet troubled period of his career (it was written in 1849, a year in which he had a mental breakdown).

The concert began with Vivaldi’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Continuo, Op. 2, No. 2. It was the perfect amuse-bouche: playful but not trite, virtuosic but not for its own sake.

It’s also an excellent showcase for Perlman. His sound, while not huge, is richly expressive; nobody of his generation owns a sweeter tone on the E string. In the violin’s lowest register, Perlman can produce a sumptuous tone, but in the Vivaldi he wisely didn’t over-Romanticize it.

The Beethoven was next. The pianist is the violin’s equal in this four-movement sonata, and it’s full of challenging passages that demand razor-sharp ensemble as the instruments pass identical motives back and forth in quick succession…. It’s hard to think of a more effortless and joyful performance.

Schumann’s three-movement work provided the concert’s most serious moods. Perlman employed a dark, veiled sound in the first movement, marked “delicate and with expression.” Schumann’s melodies seemed to rise out of a mist – Perlman has a talent for bringing a note into existence slowly, from inaudibility. It can send shivers down your spine.

Stravinsky’s well-loved “Suite Italienne,” derived from his 1920 ballet score for “Pulcinella,” is equal parts refined classicism and pungent modernism, but the elements coexist brilliantly. Perlman and De Silva struck a similar balance in their interpretation, reveling in the ostinatos and spare, almost Hindemithian harmonies without overstating them or concealing the work’s classical bones.

Perlman gave us three encores (together with some puckish commentary that hinted at current events): Kreisler’s “Sicilienne and Rigaudon” for violin and piano, “Lensky’s Aria” from Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and De Falla’s “Danse Espagnole.”

To read the full review, click here.