In 2014, legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman joined the UMW Philharmonic for a one-of-a-kind show in Fredericksburg. It was a landmark moment for the community and the orchestra.
Well, dreams do come true, and Perlman is returning to the ’Burg to wow folks with a different set of tunes. He joins the philharmonic as part of the UMW Celebrity Series for a soldout concert Oct. 26, at Dodd Auditorium.
“His visit marks the first-ever return of a celebrity guest,” said Kevin Bartram, music director and conductor of the UMW Philharmonic. “We’re starting our 49th year as an orchestra and we’re already looking forward to our 50th season. So, we’ve begun the idea of looking back. For me, Mr. Perlman’s first visit represented a shift in our standards and we’re excited to have him back.”
Whereas Perlman’s 2014 appearance centered on Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto,” this gig will zoom in on German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto.” For the longtime Perlman diehards, his affection for Mendelssohn stems back to when he first hit the big stage more than 60 years ago.
In 1958, when Perlman was just 13 years old, he appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and performed Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto,” ultimately winning over Sullivan, the in-studio crowd and American hearts.
“This [Mendelssohn] piece is a great piece... shall we say, the crown jewel of the classical repertoire in violin?” said Perlman. “Everybody plays it. Kids play it when they are young, and it never ceases to be an important part of what I do.”
Since his famed TV début, he’s performed thousands of shows throughout the globe, serenaded Queen Elizabeth II, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and taken home nearly 20 Grammy Awards.
For this UMW visit, Perlman will be joined by an orchestra of 85 and there will be some opening tunes before he takes the stage. Among the preliminary nuggets folks will enjoy are the appropriately titled “Party Starter” by Jonathan Bailey Holland and Paul Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”
In addition to performing with regional powerhouses like the UMW Philharmonic and renowned musicians galore, Perlman is all about equipping the next wave of classical musicians these days.
In New York, he’s taught full-time each summer at his namesake Perlman Music Program and has held the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Chair at the world-renowned Julliard School. Recently, he also released a 17-part (with two bonus chapters) Masterclass video series, spanning topics like “Intonation,” “Comfort and Posture” and “A Career in Music.”
“There are Masterclasses in literature, cooking and with actors and comedians ... so they thought it would be nice to have representation in the classical field,” he said. “I may be prejudiced, but the violin is one of the most difficult instruments to play well. I’m not trying to downgrade other instruments, but the violin is pretty difficult!”
Complementing his public educational endeavors, he’s also super-proud of his kids’ accomplishments. Notably, in the musical realm, his daughter Navah is a concert pianist with a handful of studio albums to her name.
“When it came to my family, neither my wife nor I pushed our kids into music,” he said. “For me, the most important thing is for everyone to do something you love... something that gives you passion. Sometimes you hear parents say, ‘Oh, you have to do this or that.’ That wasn’t us.”
Looking ahead and in addition to a slew of concert engagements through spring 2020, Perlman will play a special engagement in Tel Aviv, Israel, this month. The concert pays tribute to a longtime friend, Maestro Zubin Mehta of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, who is retiring after this season.
“He’s been my friend for many, many years,” said Perlman. “When I was asked if I’d play, I said ‘absolutely.’ It’s like playing with family.”
Reflecting on his “Ed Sullivan Show” days and (fun fact!) how he appeared on the same show as The Rolling Stones at one point, he attributed his longevity to a few simple things.
“Some people last long, and some don’t,” he said. “I’m still very happy with what I do in music. A lot of people will ask me about my goals now ... my goal is to stay interested in what I do and to not be bored.”