Photo credit: Wade Massie
By Mark Kanny
Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015
Review: Perlman delights at Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra gala
Heinz Hall was packed for “Cinema Serenade,” the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra‘s annual gala on Sept. 12. Premium-priced tickets included pre- and post-concert events at the symphony’s biggest fundraising event of the year.
Itzhak Perlman was the star attraction for the concert, which was conducted by music director Manfred Honeck.
The symphony embraced the theme by beginning with a movie screen over the orchestra showing the projectionist’s countdown followed by the 20th Century Fox Fanfare played by the brass and percussion sections.
Ten minutes of speaking preceded the rest of the music. Retiring board chamber Dick Simmons paid tribute to the late Elsie Hillman, who was generous to the Pittsburgh Symphony as well as many other good causes in town. Simmons and new president Malia Peters Tourangeau both mentioned that “Cinema Serenade” had already generated more than $1 million in gross revenue, before the silent auction was completed, and would set a new record for these events.
Honeck and the orchestra played about a half-hour of orchestral music before Perlman came onstage. The conductor introduced each of the selections, stressing and having fun with their familiarity through cartoons.
The “Light Cavalry” Overture provided the energetic start, with excellent brass playing and rich string tone. Honeck did rush the final pages, as he did the Can-Can in three excerpts from Jacques Offenbach’s “Gaite Parisienne.” But the conductor’s pacing of Offenbach’s Valse moderato let the music’s charm and sentiment blossom.
Richard Wagner’s entirely different sonorities in “The Ride of the Valkyries” were powerfully realized on Saturday night. The colorful journey of Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” featured both excellent tempi and nice rubato.
Perlman, who had polio as a child, drove onstage in a scooter, before using his crutches to reach the platform on which he played. When he put bow to strings to play “As Time Goes By” from “Casablanca,” the deeply lustrous Perlman sound transformed the hall. The violinist has been a star since he was a teenager. Now 70, he remains a uniquely rewarding artist.