In celebration of the great Israeli-American violinist’s 75th birthday, Sony Classical is proud to present the first-ever collection of Itzhak Perlman’s complete recordings for RCA and CBS/Sony in a single box set: 18 CDs spanning the years 1965 to 2012.
Itzhak Perlman has dominated the world of violin virtuosos for half a century. His TV appearances had already made him a household name in the US by the time he was 13. A few years later came his Carnegie Hall debut, then the prestigious Leventritt Award, followed by triumphant tours of Israel, North America and Europe between 1965 and 1968. By then he was an international celebrity and recognized “not just as the finest violinist of his generation but as one of the greatest musical talents to emerge since World War II” (leading string authority Tully Potter writing in the NEW GROVE).
And it was then that Perlman began his illustrious, virtually unparalleled career as a recording artist. His first sessions for RCA, accompanied by pianist David Garvey – with works ranging from sonatas by Handel, Leclair and Hindemith to showpieces by Paganini, Bazzini, Sarasate and Falla – took place in New York in 1965 but were not issued for nearly 40 years because the label felt concertos would make a more suitable commercial debut for the rising star. When an album of these pieces was finally released – as “Perlman Rediscovered”, in 2004 – it was hailed “an outstanding tribute to one of the great names among violinists of any age, as well as a remarkably varied and interesting recital in its own right” (ClassicsToday). These tracks are, of course, included in the new collection.
Perlman’s first concerto efforts for RCA – the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Prokofiev Second, with Leinsdorf and the Boston Symphony – were set down in 1966/1967 and released the following years as his recording debut. ClassicsToday acclaimed them in a recent reissue as “offering playing that is gutsy and shamelessly virtuosic, and with a sharper rhythmic focus than Perlman often achieved subsequently. The finale of the Sibelius remains a potent example of the playing’s youthful fire.” In 1969, Perlman recorded what was arguably one of the finest albums of his career, the two Prokofiev Sonatas (which he never remade), partnered by pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy at the beginning of their long and distinguished collaboration: “Delicate where needs be … and yet with a Heifetzian resilience that both sonatas willingly respond to … Perlman and Ashkenazy play with astonishing virtuosity” (Gramophone).
Itzhak Perlman’s work for American Columbia began in the mid-1970s and – apart from Bach and Vivaldi multi-violin concertos with Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman and the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta – cover a wide swath of chamber music with special partners: pianists Daniel Barenboim and Emanuel Ax, cellists Yo-Yo Ma and Lynn Harrell and guitarist John Williams. The Mendelssohn Piano Trios with Ax and Ma, first released in 2010, appear here for the first time in a Perlman collection (“…ensemble balance, clarity of inner part-writing, drama, lyricism, and phrase shaping of the highest order … I find these performances not just outstanding; I find them astounding” (Fanfare).
That other John Williams, the legendary composer for the silver screen, was Perlman’s collaborator in another medium, the movies: his two best-selling “Cinema Serenade” albums arranged and conducted by Williams, with Perlman featured in selections from such classic films as Modern Times, Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Out of Africa, Cinema Paradiso, The Color Purple and, of course, the theme that Perlman memorably performed on the soundtrack of Williams’s Oscar-winning score for the Spielberg masterpiece Schindler’s List.
New to Perlman CD editions are two complete soundtrack albums: John Williams’s “elegant and thoughtful score” for Memoirs of a Geisha in which the violinist is joined by Yo-Yo Ma and to which Perlman “brings a magical and peculiarly oriental sound to his violin-playing” (Gramophone), and the music for Yimou Zhang’s Hero by Tan Dun: “Few composers today write more effective melodies for bowed strings” (Gramophone). And to round off this uniquely wide-ranging survey of the violinist’s musical passions and triumphs, in its first appearance in a Perlman collection, the artist is joined by golden-voiced cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot in Eternal Echoes, a highly praised album of liturgical and traditional selections which the violinist has affectionately described as “Jewish comfort music – everything that I recognize from my childhood is in this program.”