The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with guest performer and conductor Itzhak Perlman graced the Strathmore concert hall last night, April 10, 2014, for an evening of mellifluous classical sound.
Perlman, sporting dual hats for this performance as both violin soloist for the first portion and conductor for the second, is more than familiar with the BSO, performing with them being in 2012 featuring the violin soloist works of Vivaldi, Mozart, and Brahms.
This time, the collaboration featured a varied program of Beethoven, Mozart, and Berlioz that ideally showcased the different talents of Mr. Perlman and the BSO.
The evening began on a soft tone, although certainly not a soft audience as all were riveted to the opening chords of Mr. Perlman’s violin as he began Beethoven’s Romance No. 1 for Violin in G. Continuing into Romance No. 2 for Violin in F, Mr. Perlman’s playing displayed a tender lyricism and singing quality, enrapturing audience in the beautiful and clear tones attributable partly to Beethoven’s composition, but mostly to Mr. Perlman’s musical ability.
It is without hesitation and with absolute truth to say that Mr. Perlman is, “undeniably, the reigning virtuoso of the violin”, and has been for the better part of the past half-century. Born in Israel in 1945, his talents came to the international spotlight in the early 1960s when he debuted at Carnegie Hall and from there, began an extensive recording and performance career. The winner of four Emmy awards and an astounding 15 Grammy awards, his notable performances include President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2008 and violin soloist in John William’s soundtrack for Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film, Schindler’s List. In particular, Mr. Perlman is renowned for his sheer clarity of tone and singular artistry, as well as his charming, humble, and humanitarian persona.
In recent years, Mr. Perlman has also begun conducting as guest conductor and artistic director for various acclaimed national symphonies. He demonstrates his conducting talent in this performance by leading the BSO in Mozart’s Symphony No. 27 in G Major.
Written by the young Mozart at only 17 years of age, Symphony No. 27 reflects Italy’s impressions on his composition in the spirited gallant style and traditional Italian sinfonia form of three movements. Featuring a smaller chamber orchestra of only strings, this piece served as the lighthearted and whimsical counterpart for the evening, in a playful caprice that offset a Romantic-era heavy program. Indeed, Mr. Perlman injected some humor here himself, poking fun at his own person as he announced to the audience with a wink and a smile, “There is nothing lonelier than a musician walking into the hall in silence. Just because I’m slow doesn’t mean you should stop clapping!”
The full strength of the BSO symphony returned for the final piece, French composer Hector Berlioz’s programmatic romantic fantasy, Symphonie fantastique. The name is quite appropriate for this five-movement piece of work, which is influenced by Berlioz’s personal and all-consuming romantic obsession with an actress in his youth. Indeed, the programmatic nature (music expressing plot and imagery) even more accentuates the eerie and rather radical orchestration. With movement names like “Reveries and Passions” and “March to the Scaffold”, Symphonie fantastique treats the audience through a somewhat unearthly and disjointed adventure hinting at both romance and more sinister themes. It features some very tricky and impressive woodwind and brass solo performances, accompanied by the strong backdrop of percussion that included heavy timpani, cymbals, and what, briefly in the third movement, sounds like cowbell.
Steadily gaining strength, speed, and sound as it moves through its movements, Symphonie fantastique ends on a fall of repeated power chords leading immediately into a standing ovation by the audience. Musicians and music appreciators alike expressed their delight in the rare opportunity to witness the performance and conducting talents of superstar classical artist Mr. Perlman; this is a performance that any serious music lover should consider not to be missed.
Running Time: 110 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Itzhak Perlman and the BSO will perform for two more evenings – This Saturday, April 12 2014 at 8:00 PM and This Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 3:00 PM at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore, MD. For future performances of the Strathmore 2013-2014 Concert Season, please visit their website.