Just Talkin' 'Bout Itzhak

Saw Mr. Perlman in Toledo the other night and I just want to pass along a few thoughts and observations. My suggestions might be useful in classical music gaining wider public acceptance.

His Introduction: Very understated, with the stage lights on he simply walked onto the stage as the crowd gave extended applause. As entrances go it works, but it really didn't drive the crowd into a frenzy. I couldn't help but think how much more exciting it would have been if the entire hall lights had darkened and there at center stage three mini spot lights traced small circles as the organist played THAT 4 note riff swelling to a crescendo just as the announcer barked "And on solo violin, from Julliard -- ITZHAK PERLMAN!" If they had done that, I sure the crowd would have moved past the applause and actually started some foot stomping, rhythmic clapping and just a hint of screaming and shouting. As Sam Goldwyn once said, "start with the volcano and then build to the climax".

His Appearance: he wore a black tuxedo over a white formal shirt. Nothing wrong there, but again no excitement. How about a white tux with epaulets over a white shirt with ruffles, particularly ruffles at the sleeves (think Prince during his Purple Rain period).

His Violin: Mr. Perlman played a single instrument for the entire performance. For an artist of his stature a big mistake. At a minimum he should have had four different violins arranged around his playing position and during the performance there should have been at least 5 or 6 changes of instruments, including one where his violin tech/roadie has to walk on stage and make some mysterious emergency adjustment to one of the instruments.

His Exit: simple and effective, he walked off stage to enthusiastic, loud and even rhythmic applause. Can't improve upon that.

In between his entrance and exit Mr. Perlman performed Beethoven's Violin Concerto. His performance wasn't perfect, but at times it was quite moving. At his best he went way beyond the music and exposed his soul for all to see. It was a privilege to have experienced his humanity.
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I was LOL 'til the last paragraph.

Perlman is one of my American hero's (even though he's from Israel) right up there with Isaac Stern and Leonard Bernstein. There are probably a lot of more technically gifted folks about but not more musically involved. In the FWIW category and something you probably already know, if you come accross Perlman's Beethoven VC with Giulini on EMI (LP or CD) its an outstanding performance!
One evening in 1980 or so I was flying out of Laguardia heading to Rochester, NY. Mr. Perlman was in at the gate in Laguardia, traveling alone evidently--no roadie, no road manager in sight. The plane was delayed and at one point he got up laboriously and went to make a payphone call (no cell phones in those days). He left his violin in the chair and had his back to it the whole time he was on the phone! They started boarding, and he remained on the phone. So I sat quietly and baby sat the violin from a distance and was the last one on the plane, right after him. I caught his concert the next night with the Rochester Phil., David Zinman conducting, which of course was terrific.

Usually I find your posts intelligent, insightful, and well-informed, but this one is very disappointing! Obviously, showmanship is not your strong suit.

Get with it, man--this is the 21st century! If you think you can impress an audience without strobe lights, fog machines, laser light shows (and at least a couple of monster trucks) you must really be living in the past.

Sure, it's bad enough he plays just a single fiddle, but an unamplified, old, wood one?? I mean you'd think Itzy could afford a modern, electric, plexiglass violin that he could jack into a nice, juicy Marshall stack or two. And would it be that difficult to have it light up in a color corresponding to the key he's playing in? I don't think so.

Then there's the program--my God, the program! I mean, if he feels he MUST play Beethoven, couldn't he do some sort of hip-hop mash-up with 50 cent or Snoop Dog or someone?

And people wonder why classical music isn't more popular!
I wonder if Mr. Perlman knows who 50 Cent is and vice versa? If they both have CDs of each other, do they keep it secret from their friends?

BTW, for the concert we sat up close in row D slightly stage left. The hall was Strathanan/Masonic Hall in Toledo, OH and from those seats there was clearly defined left/right imaging as well as layered depth. Subjectively, SPLs seemed relatively low (<85-90dB) even on peaks.
From your description I'd bet you could hardly tell it wasn't recorded and you thought that Perlman and the orchestra were just sinc'ing along. :-)