Perlman’s recital at Arsht Center charms capacity audience

By Lawrence Budmen

After five decades on the concert stage, Itzhak Perlman has become an iconic, larger than life artistic personality and entertainer. A near-capacity audience for his recital Tuesday night at the Arsht Center attested to his continuing popularity.

Rather than struggling on and off stage with arm braces as in the past, Perlman now enters and exits in an electric wheelchair. In other respects he continues to offer his trademark program mix — a masterpiece of the sonata repertoire, buttressed on each side by light divertimentos and charming vignettes.

Perlman’s tone is less rich and lustrous than in former times; yet his musicianship and interpretive skill seem imbued with greater depth and maturity. Beethoven’s Sonata No.7 in C minor, the evening’s centerpiece, received an incisive, strongly etched performance that combined drama and introspection in perfect balance.

Perlman’s broadly paced reading of the opening Allegro had an appealing touch of sinew. The Adagio cantabile achieved rare transcendence, the long limbed melodic line shaped with soulful lyricism. An appropriately jaunty and lithe Scherzo was followed by a dramatic finale, capped by a rapid, high energy coda. Pianist Rohan De Silva was a consistently strong collaborator, technically impeccable and musically assertive.

At  the outset of the opening Mozart’s Sonata in F. Major, K.376, Perlman’s attack and intonation were uncertain but the violinist soon warmed up and channeled Mozart’s musical pulse with a lyrically expansive Andante and aristocratically phrased Rondeau. Perlman’s tonal sweetness and elegance were reminiscent of Misha Elman’s Mozart performances.

Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, based on music from the ballet Pulcinella, has long been a Perlman showpiece. Here time has taken its toll. The violinist only approximated the Introduction and Tarantella, finally hitting his stride in a stately Gavotte and variations. He brought an imaginative, if rough-hewn edge to the Minuet and dashed off the harmonics of the finale with speed and brio.

Perlman is a master of the miniature and his array of bonbons is always a highlight. Kreisler’s Minuet in the Style of Poppora was spun like silk, a delightful candied confection. Gluck’s Melody from Orfeo and Eurydice (in Kreisler’s transcription) rang with classical purity of line. Although Perlman struggled with Wieniawski’s charming Caprice in A minor, he captured the wry humor and sparkling pizzicatos of Jascha Heifetz’s transcription of It Ain’t Necessarily So from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and tugged at the heart strings with the theme from Schindler’s List by John Williams.

Antonio Bazzini’s Dance of the Goblins has become a signature Perlman encore and he did not disappoint, dispatching the fiery pyrotechnics with the razzle-dazzle of a born showman, leaving his audience smiling.

Posted in Performances

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Wed Jan 13, 2010
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