Izhak Perlman is one of the most famous and sought-after international violin virtuosos. His warm, lyrical sound, formidable technique and musicianship, and rapport with audiences have led to his superstar status. Perlman has performed with orchestras and in recitals throughout the world, earning record sums. His albums of classical violin pieces consistently top the best-seller charts, and he is widely known to the public from televised performances and talk show appearances. "His talent is utterly limitless," violinist and friend Isaac Stern told Newsweek's Annalyn Swan. "No one comes anywhere near him in what he can physically do with the violin."
Perlman's parents, Chaim and Shoshana, met and married in Israel, to which they had separately emigrated in the 1930s. Shortly after Itzhak was born, his talent became evident. The two and a half-year-old could sing on key opera arias that he heard on the radio, and at age three and a half the toddler asked for a violin, which his parents bought for him at a local thrift store.
Tragedy struck Perlman at age four when he contracted polio myelitis, which permanently paralyzed his legs and necessitated his wearing heavy braces and walking with the aid of crutches. During his lengthy convalescence, Perlman continued to practice the violin, and he later studied with Rivka Goldgart at Schulamit Academy in Tel Aviv. The young boy with perfect pitch made such progress that he was considered a child prodigy. In 1958 he was discovered during a talent search and chosen to represent Israel on the Ed Sullivan Caravan of the Stars during its tour of the United States.
After the tour, Itzhak and his mother moved into an apartment in New York, a difficult move. "It wasn't easy: not speaking the language, leaving childhood friends behind, leaving my fatherho joined us a year later. It took six months to get myself attuned and it was depressing in the beginning, but when you are a kid you get used to things very quicky," he related to a reporter for the New York Daily News. The young violinist received his secondary education at home with tutors and enrolled in the preparatory division of New York's Juilliard School of Music. For five years he studied under the renowned teachers Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian and eventually earned a diploma. Remembering that time, DeLay told Swan, "What set Itzhak apart from the beginning was his sheer talent and enormous imagination. Itzhak was on a kind of creative high that has never let up."
Perlman also spent several summers at Meadowmount School of Music in upstate New York, where he met violinist Toby Friedlander, whom he married in 1967. During those years Perlman also helped support his family by playing for Jewish fund-raising dinners. A more auspicious performance, his Carnegie Hall debut, took place on March 5, 1963, with his rendition of Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 1. The need to perform as a soloist from a sitting position instead of standings is customaryecessitated that Perlman hold the violin in a somewhat unorthodox position, but this has not adversely affected his ability. In fact, his solo career was launched when he won the prestigious Leventritt Competition, with its $1000 cash award and bookings for solo appearances with the New York Philharmonic and other major symphony orchestras.
Since that time Perlman has become one of the most popular instrumentalists in the realm of classical music. His technical command of the violin, superb musicianship and lyrical tone, and showmanship have endeared him to audiences worldwide. Perlman's celebrity status has given him much freedominancial and artistic. He performs on any of a number of Stradivarius or Guarnieri violins, extremely expensive eighteenth-century violins renowned for their distinctive tonal quality. He also enjoys limiting his concert schedule to approximately 100 performances per year. He schedules concert dates around family events, with ample time to rest between appearances as traveling is especially rigorous when transportation and lodging are often not easily accessible.
Perlman likes to add several new works to his repertoire each yearxclusively pieces that appeal to himnd spend a long but leisurely time preparing them. He delights in searching out unusual works of considerable musical value and has also commissioned new works for the violin. During the 1980s and 1990s, Perlman's recital and concert appearances included those with the Israel Philharmonic in 1987, 1990, and 1994; a four-concert series in London during which he performed the major violin concerto; performances of Beethoven Triple Concerto with Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma, and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1995; and concerts with Berlin Staatskapelle and Orchestre de Paris in 1997. Perlman performed as soloist and acted as director of the English Chamber Orchestra in 1997-98 and toured with the group during 1999-2000. Also in 2000, Perlman was named principal guest conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the 2001-02 season. Perlman's enormous discography includes most of the classical repertoire for violin, for which he has garnered numerous Grammy Awards, as well as forays into folk songs and jazz. Perlman also contributed violin solos to the Schindler's List film soundtrack in 1994.
When not performing or recording, Perlman finds time to share his talents in other ways, such as with the Perlman Music Program. Founded by Perlman and his wife in 1995, the program provides instruction, mentoring, six weeks residency at facilities on Shelter Island, New York, and an annual international study/performance tour for gifted students ages 11 to 18; more than 80 percent of the children who participate in the program are given financial assistance to do so.
Believing that media exposure will attract wider audiences to classical music, Perlman has appeared many times on televisionalk shows, news magazines, and children's showsuring which he dispels with his sense of humor the image of classical music as elitist or "stuffy." Some of the programs he has appeared on include The Late Show with David Letterman, Sesame Street, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Grammy Awards telecasts, and Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts. He has used such appearances to speak out on behalf of the handicapped for improved access to public buildings and transportation, and he has supported aid to the handicapped through several hospitals, foundations, and educational programs, even funding a scholarship for musically talented disabled children.
Prokofiev: Violin Concerto No. 2, RCA Victor, 1967.
Sibelius: Violin Concerto in D minor, RCA Victor, 1967.
Paganini: Violin Concert No. 1, EMI/Angel, 1972.
Bach: Violin Concertos in D Minor and G Minor, EMI/Angel, 1973.
Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: Violin Concerto in E Minor, EMI/Angel, 1973.
Wieniawski: Violin Concertos No. 1 and 2, EMI/Angel, 1973.
Joplin: Easy Winners, EMI/Angel, 1975.
Kreisler: My Favourite Kreisler, EMI/Angel, 1976.
Stravinsky: Divertimento; Suite Italienne; Duo Concertante, EMI/Angel, 1976.
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons, EMI/Angel, 1976.
Goldmark: Violin Concerto No. 1, EMI/Angel, 1977.
Vieuxtemps: Violin Concertos No. 4 and 5, EMI/Angel, 1978.
Brahms: Concerto in A minor, EMI/Angel, 1980.
(With Andre Previn) A Different Kind of Blues, Angel, 1981.
Tchaikovsky: Trio in A minor, EMI/Angel, 1981.
Beethoven: Violin Sonatas, London, 1983.
Khachaturian: Violin Concerto; Tchaikovsky: Meditation, EMI/Angel, 1984.
Mozart: Violin Sonatas, Deutsche Grammaphon, 1984.
Dvorak: Sonatina in G, Angel, 1985.
Bach: Complete Piano Trios, Angel, 1986.
Beethoven: Piano Trios No. 6 and 7, EMI/Angel, 1986.
Tradition: Popular Jewish Melodies, Angel, 1987.
A Tribute to Jascha Heifetz, EMI, 1989.
Brahms: Three Violin Sonatas, Sony Classical, 1990.
Brahms: Violin Concerto in D, EMI, 1992.
Dvorak in Prague: A Celebration, Sony Classical, 1994.
(Contributor) Schindler's List (soundtrack), MCA, 1994.
In the Fiddler's House, Angel, 1995.
Elgar: Violin Concerto, Deutsche Grammaphon, 1996.
Live in the Fiddler's House, Angel, 1996.
(With John Williams) Cinema Serenade, Sony Classical, 1997.
(With John Williams) Cinema Serenade 2, Sony Classical, 1999.
Concertos from My Childhood, Angel, 1999.
Classic Perlman: Rhapsody, Sony, 2002.
Schwarz, Boris, Great Masters of the Violin, Simon & Schuster, 1983.
Atlanta Journal, October 20, 1985; October 4, 1988.
American Record Guide, May 2000.
Greensboro News and Record, January 19, 1986.
Hartford Courant, April 4, 1987.
Houston Post, January 9, 1989.
Indianapolis Star, May 15, 1988.
Kansas City Star, November 25, 1984; May 20, 1987.
Lansing State Journal, October 31, 1988.
Newsweek, April 14, 1980.
New York Daily News, June 29, 1986.
Seattle Times, October 21, 1988.
The Strad, February 1986.
"Itzhak Perlman," All Classical Guide, (May 28, 2002).
"Itzhak Perlman," Sony Classical, http://www.sonyclassical.com/artists/perlman/bio.html (April 3, 2002).
"Itzhak Perlman: Albums," ARTISTDirect, http://store.artistdirect.com/store/artist/album/full/0,,47... (May 29, 2002).
"Itzhak Perlman on Youth, Music and Philanthropy," On Philanthropy, http://www.onphilanthropy.com/op2001-10-30.html (April 3, 2002).
Library of Congress Online Catalog, http://lcweb.loc.gov (May 29, 2002).
"Perlman, Itzhak: Discography," Yahoo! Shopping, http://shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=art&id=perlmanitzhak (May 29, 2002).
Jeanne M. Lesinski
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