REVIEW: Itzhak Perlman, violin & Rohan De Silva, piano 9/13

Itzhak Perlman, violin & Rohan De Silva, piano

Program:

Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Major, Op. 9, No. 3                  Jean-Marie Leclair

Sonata for Violin and Piano No.7 in c minor, Op. 30, No. 2   Ludwig van Beethoven

Suite Italienne                                                                              Igor Stravinsky

& various short pieces Perlman announced individually from the stage

The Itzhak Perlman concert last Sunday (September 13, 2009) completely sold out. I know this because I bought the last ticket. In fact, even as I was pulling out my wallet to pay, two more people stopped by and asked to buy tickets. What’s so special about Itzhak Perlman? I’d say his technical prowess. He makes everything look easy. It’s as if the technical aspect of playing the violin, the physical neccesity of placing the fingers on the fingerboard in the right place at the right time (and coordinating the fingers with the bow, and drawing the bow against the string with the right pressure and speed, and…) don’t exist at all. It’s as if Perlman can shortcut past all the technical concerns, and the audience can enjoy the music undiluted. This is not the case, of course–Perlman’s ability comes from extensive training and practicing–but it is what makes a live performance by Itzhak Perlman so amazing. At times I couldn’t believe I was watching a human being, and not listening to a digitally altered recording.

I’m not going to lie: I came to the concert to hear Itzhak Perlman, not Rohan De Silva. But I don’t want to downplay the pianist’s part in this performance. Rohan De Silva’s playing was also excellent: expressive, sensitive, dynamic. At first I focused my attention solely on Perlman, fascinated by his technical facility (and the automated wheelchair he had zoomed about the stage upon). But I soon realized that much of the music’s complexity came from the interplay between piano and violin—the contrast of musical textures, the back and forth exchange of the melody. I like the phrase in the program’s notes on Rohan De Silva: “collaborative piano.” The performance this past Sunday was a collaboration between two highly skilled musicians.

On a lighter note, I’ve always wondered what people think about during concerts. I know that I personally cannot stay focused purely on the music. At times, my attention wandered to the enormous floral arrangement on the stage. I wondered who had put it there, and why. To entertain bored audience members? To fill up space on the empty stage? It was a rather wild looking arrangement, with very long, crooked, white branches extending outwards like skinny skeletal fingers.

I wondered whether I was not properly appreciating the music because I was noticing the decorations.  Then I wondered how many people were properly appreciating the music, and how many were simply sitting there to be able to say they had heard Perlman. Soon I found myself musing on what it means to “appreciate” music. For your mind to be analyzing the harmonies and rhythms? For your emotions to follow the contours of the melodic line?

What do you think it means to “appreciate” music? What do you think about during a concert?

2 Responses to “REVIEW: Itzhak Perlman, violin & Rohan De Silva, piano 9/13”


  • Itzhak Perlman is a well known violinist. His consummate virtuoso technique made him shine in the violin industry. He is one of the greatest performers of his time regardless of his leg paralysis. No wonder that all his concerts from the past up to current are always massive hits.

  • your wandering attention is normal. Have you read Nicolson Baker’s book Mezzanine? your paragraph reminds of that book.

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