April 25, 2006 at 6:15 AMLast night I heard a concert by Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. From the moment they started to play, I felt like I was in heaven. I have a CD with most of the music they played, and I love it, but hearing them in person was so much better. I can’t say why. Their presence and their music were electrifying. Everyone in the audience was on the edge of their seats, except when they rose and applauded enthusiastically. My seat was in a tier on the right side of the stage, and Perlman’s violin was facing me. I hadn’t realized that his hands were so large. His left hand looked almost too large for the fingerboard. Both Perlman and Zukerman did the most difficult maneuvers with their bows with absolute precision and, seemingly, ease. Perlman conferred with Zukerman and the pianist, Rohan De Silva, onstage from time to time and made some jokes to the audience. The pieces on the program were Bach’s Sonata for Two Violins and Keyboard in C Major, BWV 1037; Mozart’s Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major, K. 423; Leclair’s Sonata in F Major for Two Violins, Op. 3, No. 4; and Moszkowski’s Suite in G minor for Two Violins and Piano, Op. 71. The duo’s sound was more sweet and rich than I ever imagined music could be. After the first piece (the Bach Sonata), Perlman told the audience that they were going to play some music not on the program -- some violin duets by Bartok. He announced the name of each duet and gave his comments: Teasing (“makes you wonder whether there will be any more”), Limping Dance (“my personal favorite”), Serbian Dance (“one of Bartok’s greatest hits”), and more. These pieces are short and not very demanding technically, and the two violinists played them with panache. Perlman ended each one with a dramatic flourish of his bow and a big grin to the audience. What a showman! After playing all the music on the program plus the Bartok duets, Perlman told the audience, “We are prepared to play at least twelve encores,” and the audience applauded wildly. Zukerman went to Perlman’s side, listened to Perlman whisper to him, laughed, returned to his place, and flipped through the sheet music on his stand. After telling Zukerman what they would play, Perlman let the audience in on the secret. “All violinists are playing Shostakovich these days,” he said, “and who are we to be different?” I groaned inwardly. At last year’s Queen Elizabeth Violin Competition, many of the finalists played the Shostakovich concerto, and I didn’t like it. This time, I was pleasantly surprised. The three musicians played a few (alas, not twelve) Waltzes by Shostakovich. The first one began with a great dramatic flourish on the piano and continued with lush, almost Romantic gusto. I was reminded of Strauss waltzes (Blue Volga?). Up until the very last second of the concert, I kept feeling that I was in heaven.
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