Itzhak Perlman, the world’s most celebrated violin virtuoso, returns to Louisville Thursday night to perform with the Louisville Orchestra in the symphony’s annual “Fanfara” gala that launches the classical music season. And Perlman fans can only hope this concert is as exciting as his last.
Headlining “Fanfara” in 1999, Perlman turned a solo performance with the orchestra into an intimate musical “conversation” with the audience. In an encore, playing little snippets of songs, Perlman zipped and skied across the range of his instrument. At one point, he skittered up to the very highest notes possible on a violin — with his fingers dancing on the strings right next to his violin’s bridge. He held the hall breathless. And then, surprising the spellbound, Perlman spoke with his audience, letting the listeners in on the music he was playing. Not a lecture. A conversation.
You can do that kind of stuff when you’re a star of the magnitude of Itzhak Perlman. Whether he is appearing (as he did long ago) on the “Ed Sullivan Show,” or recently on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” or hosting a “Three Tenors Concert” at Dodger Stadium, or with fellow champion fiddler Pincas Zukerman, or playing the poignant solos in “Schindler’s List,” Perlman is always at home as the star of the show.
Perlman, born in Israel in 1945, taught himself to play on a toy violin, then reached Carnegie Hall before he was 20. His style? Fast, romantic, engaging. So much so, in fact, that even when he’s not technically perfect, Perlman is able, in the words of critic Ted Libbey, “to skate by on talent and showmanship.”
And who doesn’t love a showboat?
Next Thursday (Sept. 7) in Whitney Hall, Perlman will perform Max Bruch’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” — a standard of the soloists’ craft. The adagio movement of the concerto is the romantic heart of the piece, and should be right up Perlman’s expressive alley.
David Lockington guest-conducts the orchestra for “Fanfara,” with new orchestra musical director Jorge Mester expected to be in attendance.
This is the first time the “Fanfara” concert will be held away from a Saturday night, and a more casual “business attire” is suggested, rather than “black tie,” for patrons participating in the special extra-fee dining and reception options at the Brown Hotel’s English Grille, the Galt House, Jarfi’s Bistro, Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse, Morton’s Steakhouse, The Oakroom, Proof on Main and Vincenzo’s.
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