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Itzhak Perlman - Virtuoso Violinist

Release Date: 02/26/2008 
Label:  Christopher Nupen Films   Catalog #: A08CND   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Itzhak Perlman
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 2 Hours 45 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

ITZHAK PERLMAN: VIRTUOSO VIOLINIST Itzhak Perlman (vn); Various accompaniments CHRISTOPHER NUPEN A08CND (DVD: 166:36)

Christopher Nupen’s portrait of Itzhak Perlman brings together “films” that Nupen made in the late 1970s when Perlman had only in the last few years reached the age of 30. I remember seeing the first of these, I Know I Played Every Note (1978), soon after it appeared. In less than an hour, Nupen captured Perlman in master classes (bringing musical insight to a young Read more Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg in Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy ), discussing food in the most genial possible way, and his partnership with Vladimir Ashkenazy under clips of them recording Beethoven’s 10th Sonata and listening to takes, playing with Pinchas Zukerman, and rehearsing Vivaldi’s “Winter” Concerto at Aspen. Perlman’s wife, Toby, offers some of the commentary. For those who may consider this kind of documentary rather thin by itself, it’s generously underlayed with musical excerpts: Bazzini’s Dance of the Goblins (twice), Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen , Bach’s Gavotte en rondeau from the Third Partita in a video from 1956, Beethoven’s Trio, op. 70/2, with Lynn Harrell and Ashkenazy, Joplin’s Ragtime Dance with Bruno Canino, the Preludio (entire) from Bach’s Third Partita, Beethoven’s 10th Sonata, Wieniawski’s Caprice in A Minor, op. 18 (entire), Vivaldi’s “Winter,” Sarasate’s Carmen Fantasy , and Vieuxtemps’s Fifth Concerto. Such a documentary might have devoted more time—or, at least, some time—to Perlman’s relationship with his teachers, Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay. But it’s an engaging portrait, anyway, of an engaging personality. After a brief introduction by Nupen, Perlman then recalls the recording he made with Zubin Mehta, Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, and Jacqueline du Pré of Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet. While at the time, some of the clowning between the participants seemed goony to me, the music itself made a deep impression. We don’t get that performance, however, but a remembrance of making it, then a more recent reminiscence of du Pré by Perlman, in which he makes a distinction between those whose musicianship reflected their personalities (du Pré) and those whose musicianship doesn’t (among these he numbers his “god,” Heifetz). There follow two videotaped performances of Bach for the BBC in 1978: one of the entire Third Partita and one of the entire Second Partita (including the Chaconne). Some of the Third Partita sounds a bit smudgy, and, upon reflection, I concluded that either Perlman had taken greater pains over the beginnings, or attacks, of notes than on their leave-taking—or the engineers hadn’t captured him optimally. It seems, too, that while he tended in these performances, for example in the Gavotte en rondeau, to emphasize heavily without sounding ponderous, the playing lacked—or, again, seemed to lack—rhythmic piquancy. In the D-Minor Partita, Perlman didn’t communicate a sense of having thoroughly mastered the intonation, though it’s hard to pick out individual aberrations. In the Corrente, he sharply defined the dotted-8th -16th patterns that alternate with triplets. The Sarabande introduces romantic, full-blooded richness at the end, which, while it may not be idiomatic, nevertheless sounds convincing in its own way. The Gigue provides a rapidly changing tonal kaleidoscope, although some notes seem to get lost in the scramble. Finally, the Chaconne sounds majestic and leisurely—not at all driving rhythmically, and ends with a virtuosic flourish. Yet passages don’t build as they do in performances by, say, Isaac Stern (a video for VAI, 4368).

The DVD ends with almost 40 minutes highlighting Nupen’s other “films” in a montage entitled “Allegro molto.” The same montage appeared in Nupen’s re-release of his documentary on Nathan Milstein. In introducing it, he makes a case for DVDs replacing regular televised presentations of great artists. Yet I find—and I doubt I’m entirely alone in this—that watching recorded performances seems somehow more static than just listening to them.

It’s violinistic heresy, I know, but over the years, I’ve warmed to Itzhak Perlman very, very slowly. Live he can be riveting—and a recital almost a generation ago remains one of my most treasured musical remembrances. But I haven’t discerned in all his recordings the excitement that his physical presence or manner suggests or that others insist underlies his readings. But even for a doubting Thomas there should be a great deal in these roughly two hours of conversation, excerpts, and insights that’s worth hearing and considering. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Robert Maxham

A film by Christopher Nupen

Also includes:
The Trout Remembered
Jacqueline du Pré Remembered

and complete performance of
J.S. Bach: Violin Partita in E major, BWV 1006
J.S. Bach: Violin Partita in D minor, BWV 1004

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: Dolby Digital 2.0 / Dual Mono
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Language: English
Subtitles: German, Spanish, Finnish, French, Italian
Running time: 165 mins
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Works on This Recording

Partita for Violin solo no 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Itzhak Perlman (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Partita for Violin solo no 3 in E major, BWV 1006 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Itzhak Perlman (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 

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