The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman turns 70. Plus the Willy Street Chamber Players perform Beethoven on WORT this morning.

September 3, 2015
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ALERT: The Ear’s friend Rich Samuels of WORT 89.9 FM writes: At 7:21 a.m. today, Thursday, Sept. 3, I’ll be broadcasting the Willy Street Chamber Players’ performance of the Beethoven String Quartet No. 11 in F Minor. It was recorded live on July 11 at Madison’s Immanuel Lutheran Church. Featured are Eleanor Bartsch and Paran Amirinazari (violins), Micah Behr (viola) and Mark Bridges (cello).

By Jacob Stockinger

This past Monday, superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman (below, in a photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco) turned 70.

Itzhak Perlman by Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Perlman, who possesses a sharp sense of humor,  likes to call himself a fiddler.

But he is so much more.

Perlman – who once made the cover of Time magazine and who used to fly in his private jet — has played a lot in Madison since the beginning of his concert career, at the Wisconsin Union Theater, the Madison Civic Center and the Overture Center.

The Ear thinks that his most memorable appearance in Madison was before his stratospheric concert fees made him either unaffordable or affordable only to the very well-heeled.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman photographed in 1984.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman photographed in 1984.

That was way back when WUT director Ralph Sandler booked the young Perlman to perform the complete solo violin sonatas and partitas by Johann Sebastian Bach. Perlman performed them over two back-to-back nights at the Wisconsin Union Theater.

The event proved to be one of the highlights of all the music that The Ear has ever heard in Madison. It was pretty incredible, watching Perlman sit there by himself on stage as he poured forth these fabulous works.

Itzhak Perlman playing closeup

The Ear likes Perlman’s playing a lot, especially from the early days when he won his share of Grammy Awards.

A great example are his recordings of the sonatas for violin and piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that he did with Daniel Barenboim and the sonatas for violin and piano by Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms that he did with Vladimir Ashkenazy. His recordings of the Beethoven and Brahms concertos with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini are also outstanding classics.

But to be honest, the later Perlman often disappointed me.

The Ear heard one performance in Madison where Perlman seemed bored by the music, as if he were phoning it in or going through the motions without much emotional engagement. (Below is Perlman in the 1960s.)

itzhak perlman ca 1960s BW

Then there was the time when he relied too much on his post-intermission shtick of pretending to choose and call out impromptu virtuosic encore-like pieces for the second half of his program while he also related to the audience the baseball scores from the World Series with his beloved home town team, the New York Yankees.

Then there was the time when many people went to hear him play the deeply emotional theme from “Schindler’s List” by John Willliams as an encore. He didn’t. (Listen to the YouTube video of it, with over 6 million hits, at the bottom.)

Nonetheless, Perlman remains a charismatic major talent who sure knows how to fill seats and please high-end audiences.

By some accounts, Perlman’s playing has declined in recent years. The Ear wonders if post-polio syndrome has anything to do with it, but can’t recall reading anything about that.

But whatever you think of his own playing, Perlman continues to devote himself to teaching young students with the program established by him and his wife Toby (below left) and to conduct as well as to perform solo recitals and concertos.

Toby and Itzhak Perlman Music Program Mission

This past week NPR or National Public Radio featured a look back at the many facets of Perlman’s long career. It included some great photos as well as some terrific audio samples.

Here is a link:

http://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2015/08/31/435224636/itzhak-perlman-charting-a-charismatic-career

What do you think of Itzhak Perlman and the various phases of his career?

The Ear wants to hear.


Classical music: To mark the World Series in Major League Baseball, two world-class symphonies post a YouTube smack down.

October 25, 2013
8 Comments

By Jacob Stockinger

Well, as a friend reminded me, it is here: Time for the World Series in Major League Baseball, of which Game 2 of a possible 7 will have been played by the time most of you read this.

Major League Baseball logo

And the two teams — the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals — that are vying for the world championship trophy (below) both come from cultured cities that boast world-class orchestras: The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

World Series Trophy

I am not really a fan of any baseball team — or of team sports in general —  but I do think baseball appeals to a lot of musicians. I know from personal experience that the superstar violinist  Itzhak Perlman (below) is a big fan who once announced the updated scores of a  world series games with the New York Yankees between pieces  and from the stage of the old Madison Civic Center.

Itzhak Perlman close

I wonder what the appeal of baseball to musicians is.

Maybe it has to do with the rhythm of the game.

For the member of a symphony orchestra or chamber music ensemble, maybe it is the team aspect.

For individuals, maybe what matters is the same kind of hand-eye coordination on which so much music-making on instruments depends – as does pocket pool, archery and target shooting, all of which I also like.

In fact, avid pianist that I am, I love watching baseball pitchers – like the great retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera (below)  —  but only at home on TV where I can see the pitches relatively close up and also check how the speed is measured and the contortions that batters have to go through to hit the ball.

Throw the ball. Catch the ball. Hit the ball.

Easy game, right?

Ha-ha.

baseball pitcher mariano rivera

Anyway here, at the bottom, is the World Series Symphony Smack Down is a link to a story — with some surprises — on The New York Times music blog and to the video (which has overtones of the gang warfare in Leonard Bernstein‘s “West Side Story”)  on YouTube.

Listen and tell me in the comments section why your think so many classical musicians like baseball?

And which city has the better symphony as well as baseball team? In other words, no matter who wins the series, I want to know who you think wins the Symphony Smack Down

The Ear wants to hear.

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/23/boston-and-st-louis-orchestra-musicians-play-up-the-world-series/?_r=0


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