The Babe Ruth of Classical Music

Itzhak Perlman, guest violinist with the MSO, wows the audience with precision, poise and pizzaz.

By - Apr 29th, 2015 04:50 pm
Itzhak Perlman. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco.

Itzhak Perlman. Photo by Lisa Marie Mazzucco.

Generally speaking, Americans have a somewhat difficult time bringing to mind any household names in the classical music world. Most people will know Caruso, Bernstein, Callas, Pavarotti, Yo-Yo Ma and of course, Itzhak Perlman. These are the Ruth, Lombardi, DiMaggio, and Jordan of Carnegie Hall and beyond. So when an iconic figure such as Perlman visits your hometown symphony orchestra, a buzz of excitement catches hold. Milwaukee showed up, and Uihlein Hall was packed cheek to jowl with music lovers who came to hear and see a master at play.

Cheers and wild applause both greeted and followed out this man for whom walking is a struggle but virtuosity is a breeze. Perlman performed the ever-popular Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 64 by Felix Mendelssohn, and it was clear to everyone in the audience that his mastery of the violin is still present and accounted for. Perlman plays with a relaxed confidence that forecasts a piece-of-cake equanimity no matter how many notes per square inch are required from him in any given passage. He produces a sweet, shimmering sound that grabs listeners by the ears and draws them into a hypnotic spell. His sausage-shaped fingers fly across the violin with precision and poise, and his bow goes from a bouncing spiccato to a tender flautando without a care. “It’s all good,” he seems to be saying. “I’ve got this.” Perlman can do anything.

The MSO responded beautifully to Perlman’s phrase shapes and dynamics. The performance did feel as though Mr. Perlman was more urgent about the tempi than was the MSO’s associate conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong, but the orchestra adjusted quickly, and all too soon the concerto was over.

Itzhak Perlman turns 70 later this year—happy birthday in advance and many happy returns, maestro.

The concert opened with Symphony No. 2 in D major, Opus 73 by Johannes Brahms. This composition is on the meat-and-potatoes side of the menu for the MSO, and although it lacked some of the flavor of past performances, the orchestra can be relied upon to deliver this great symphony with warmth and power. Hornist Matthew Annin sounded beautiful in the first movement, and the powerhouse cello section sang their collective hearts out.

There are myriad reasons for having a strong, vital Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The ability to bring Mr. Perlman and other such performers to the MSO stage is just one reason, but really, such a good one. A strong MSO has the muscle to bring in great artists, educate and entertain its community, and provide comfort to many. This Classics Special from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra was a wonderful gift to the community.

0 thoughts on “Review: The Babe Ruth of Classical Music”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I saw Perlman years ago (I was in college), and wish I had been at this performance. Milwaukee is a great place for musical concerts!

  2. Anonymous says:

    One marker of a really good or great orchestra compared to an adequate orchestra is how they perform under the direction of guest conductors, or when their “regular leaders” are on vacation. The MSO performance today (May 1) revealed that level unique to truly top-drawer ensembles. It is an honor to hear and see the phrases passed from one instrument to another, in tune and matching timbre. To enjoy the wonderful sound of the strings loud and soft. And to enjoy the virtuosi sixty of the members playing together and I opposition in the Frank Martin Concerto. The men women in the MSO make up one of Wisconsin’s most important assets.

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