hard to say that a perfor-mer is at the peak of his career
until you see him start to falter, at which time the judgment
becomes hindsight. So let’s just say that violinist Itzhak
Perlman continues to perform as inspiringly as ever.
and pianist Rohan De Silva last played Proctors in 2004, a
concert I’ve reminisced about often enough to seem much more
recent. And the program was similar insofar as it featured
slightly lesser-known works in the violin-piano repertory.
with a sonata by Mozart (Sonata in A Major), which
is variously numbered as 14, 15, 18 or 35 depending on whether
you count the youthful sonatas and throw out the fragments
and/or possibly spurious works. Over the course of writing
those works (between 1763 and 1788), Mozart improved the role
of the violin from accompanying instrument to full-fledged
partner, so by the time he got to this work, a nice balance
had been achieved.
and last movements, in sonata-allegro and rondo form, respectively,
feature lively dialogues between the instruments, enhanced
by the transparency of the performance. De Silva has a faultless
technique that makes the cascades of runs and arpeggios sound
easy; Perlman has a lyrical, focused tone that suits his repertory
beautifully and reminds us that Mozart needs no historically
informed performance techniques in order to sound effective.
His music just needs excellent playing.
of many a Mozart slow movement is an aria-like quality that
sets the solo voice soaring, and—although it can be something
of a cliché—this truly was the emotional heart of the piece.
portion of the very large crowd revealed its unfamiliarity
with classical music customs by applauding between movements,
and was charmingly encouraged by Perlman not to do so in the
piece that followed, a sonata by Beethoven. There are compelling
arguments to be made on both sides of the issue, and I find
myself waffling—but my 13-year-old daughter decided that you
should be able to applaud anything you want. I’ll leave it
Sonata No. 7 was also part of Perlman’s 2004 Proctors program,
and it’s a pleasure to hear it again. It’s a four-movement
work with stormy outer movements, a theme-and variations slow
movement that erupts into unexpected dramatics, and a quirky
little scherzo that seems almost out of place until you realize
that Beethoven’s sly, wry grin lies behind the entirety of
so much emotional contrast built into the piece that, as an
interpreter, you best serve the music by allowing your passions
free reign without getting cartoony about it. As expected,
with Perlman and De Silva at the controls, it became a thrilling
Dvorák intended his Sonatina in G Major to be a work
his kids could play, hence the diminutive title. I’m thinking
he also was a little cowed by what Brahms had come up with
a decade or two earlier in his set of three violin sonatas.
In any event, the work dates from 1893, written while the
composer was in the United States, and sported the pentatonically-informed
Native American influences also found in his “New World” symphony
and “American” quartet, among other works.
a classically four-movement work, thus balancing the Beethoven,
so rich with melody that it showcased the performers’ lyric
qualities. And Dvorák’s kids must have been pretty skillful:
there were some challenging licks in the faster movement that
Perlman and De Silva tossed off with ease.
the stage for the series of shorter works that finished the
concert. When a Perlman program promises that such works will
be announced from the stage, prepare both for virtuoso playing
and amusing continuity, as the violinist sets us up for what’s
Perpetuum Mobile by Franz Ries, for example, is that composer’s
Op. 34 no. 5. “Which means that Ries wrote many other pieces,”
Perlman explained. “But tonight I’m only going to give you
one Ries piece.”
he clobbered his fiddle with some blinding bowing that well
suited the promise of the title. Three of the short works
were written or arranged by violinist Fritz Kreisler: “Melodie”
from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is so gentle and affecting
that it’s an encore standard. The Caprice in A Minor
by Wieniawski was written for two violins, and Kreisler turned
one of those parts into a piano version (it’s another study
in rapid-fire bowing); Kreisler’s own “Sicilienne and Rigaudon”
was one of several works the violinist initially attributed
to a string of near-forgotten composers, in this case, François
certainly merited their standing ovation, but saved the most
astonishing piece for the encore: Bazzini’s “Round of the
Goblins,” legendarily difficult, throwing in technical challenges
that would have made Paganini blush. It was a triumph.