Perlman shines like the violinist of old in Broward Center recital

By David Fleshler

Itzhak Perlman performed a recital Monday night at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.

Following a pair of disappointing local appearances, Itzhak Perlman returned to South FloridaMonday and sounded much more like one of the world’s leading musicians. At a recital at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale, Perlman showed the qualities that had made him the top violinist of his generation.

True, the 67-year-old violinist’s technical equipment isn’t what it used to be. His bow arm was sometimes unsteady, his intonation less than rock-solid and his famous rich tone occasionally warbly. But his engagement with the music—largely absent in a 2011 performance on the same stage—came through, strongly along with the flair, warmth and bursts of virtuosity that have made him an audience favorite since the 1960s.

While Perlman is famous for the sweetness of his tone, he didn’t pour it like gravy onto every work on the program. Rather, he cooled it for the clean, modern melodies of the first movement of Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 2, then turned hard-driving, gritty and unafraid to make less-than-polished sound for the work’s Scherzo. He excels at long lines of sustained melody, as displayed in the rhapsodic passages of Fauré’s Violin Sonata No. 1, putting sizzle into octave runs and a buttery smoothness into doubled notes in the instrument’s lower register.

Perlman was ably accompanied by his longtime pianist Rohan de Silva, who had no trouble with the challenging piano parts of the Fauré and Prokofiev sonatas.

After the sonatas, Perlman announced a series of works from the stage, holding a sheet of paper that he said was a computer printout of all his previous Fort Lauderdale programs so he wouldn’t repeat.

He gave a mini-festival of works by the Austrian violinist and composer Fritz Kreisler, a musician as beloved at his early 20th-century peak as Perlman would be 70 years later. Sicilienne and Rigaudon zipped along in a display of light virtuosity. In the Mélodie by Gluck, an arrangement of the composer’s “Dance of the Blessed Spirits” from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice, Perlman played as he had at the height of his powers, as he drew out the wistful, long-lined melody. More virtuosity followed in the quick passages and tones played on two or three strings at once of Kreisler’s Tambourin Chinois.

In one of Perlman’s signature pieces, the poignant melody written by John Williams for the film Schindler’s List, Perlman again showed some of the qualities that put him on top. While there are thousands of violinists who can play a throbbing, emotional melody on the lower strings, the uniqueness of Perlman came through in this work, as he brought to the work his combination of tonal warmth, songlike phrasing, and carefully calibrated emotion.

In addition to these works, he gave a gracefully phrased, dramatic account of Schubert’s Rondo Brilliant in B Minor, and a throaty, characteristic performance of the Brahms Hungarian Dance No. 1, as arranged for violin and piano by Joseph Joachim.

Although audience members are always asked to silence cell phones in a pre-concert announcement, something needs to be done about people whipping out their smart phones and cruising the web or checking email and texts during performances. Those sitting in the right upper orchestra Monday were treated to the sight of two men, one writhing in boredom, taking out their phones every few minutes to check for messages and continually distracting everyone sitting behind them.

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2 Responses to “Perlman shines like the violinist of old in Broward Center recital”

  1. Posted Jan 08, 2013 at 11:06 pm by CL Jahn

    I made the cell phone announcement at last night’s concert, as I do for most concerts at the Broward Center the last couple of years. So I know for a fact that we specifically ask that people refrain from texting, in addition to asking them to shut off their phones.

    Beyond that, there’s not a lot that can be done; it’s illegal to jam the signals; and it’s illegal to seize the phones. Sending an usher to chastise the offender is often more distracting than the distraction itself.

    Ultimately, an audience must police itself in matters of etiquette.

  2. Posted Jan 10, 2013 at 2:15 pm by Muriel Kroll

    I attended the performance on Monday night and was excited to be there to hear Mr. Perlman perform. I must say that I had a very difficult time hearing the performance and certainly did not hear much of the dialogue which was very disappointing. I had to strain to hear all night rather than sitting back and absoring the sounds of someone I admire. I sat in the upper orchestra (yes, near a cell phone user!). But it seemed that there was no sound system on. I called the venue and was told that they just had a new system installed. My companion also had difficulty and I heard several people saying “what did he say”. But I only know that I missed something special.

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Tue Jan 8, 2013
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