Saturday, November 30, 2013

Meeting Itzhak

Mr. Perlman and me! 
A few weeks back, a friend invited me to go to Sarasota to hear Itzhak Perlman perform.  Needless to say, I said yes!  I had no idea what type of concert it would be or what was on the program.  It turns out that Mr. Perlman was performing with some of the Perlman Music Program alumni at a concert celebrating the 65th anniversary of Israel.  It was a great evening of music, and as a huge bonus I had the chance to meet him at a reception after the show.  (He is a man of very few words, although I did get an eye roll when I commented that he'd probably posed for a few pictures in his time.)   I also had the chance to talk with some of the alumni musicians at the reception, which was really fun.  While they were composed and professional onstage (not to mention incredibly talented), when I talked to them afterwards, I was struck by the fact that they were just kids wearing worn-out loafers who were excited to eat some free desserts.

The experience turned into an article for Florida Weekly that ran on November 21st.   The PMP Program is so interesting (and the opportunity to see incredible music for free is so exciting) that I wanted to share it here as well.   For information about the PMP/Suncoast program and this year's performances, click here.

The Perlman Music Program Celebrates Ten Years in Sarasota

By Nanette Crist

Itzhak Perlman is a legend in the world of classical music.   Since his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1963 (at the  tender  age of 18), Mr. Perlman has delighted and amazed audiences with his virtuoso violin performances.  Without a doubt, if you have the opportunity to hear Mr. Perlman perform live, it is an experience you will not forget. 

Courtesy Photo - Itzhak and Toby Perlmam
Mr. Perlman is, however, about more than just creating his own beautiful music.   In 1994, Mr. Perlman’s wife Toby established The Perlman Music Program.  Mr. Perlman is, of course, integrally involved with the program, the mission of which is to “develop the future leaders of classical music within a nurturing and supportive community.”   Each year, approximately 40 promising young string musicians from around the world spend their summer vacations on Shelter Island in New York honing their craft with Mr. Perlman and PMP’s accomplished faculty.   The students, ages 12 – 18, are referred to as “the littles,” although their talent is anything but. 

Courtesy Photo -- Mr. Perlman conducting PMP students
PMP/Suncoast Winter Residency Program

Ten years ago, The Perlman Music Program added a two week “winter residency” in Sarasota.   The residency gives the students an opportunity to continue their work together before a full year has passed.   (Spending some time in sunny Florida is merely a happy by-product of the residency.) 
During the two week program, the students take master classes and give recitals, all of which are open to the public free of charge.   The public is also invited to attend—again, at no cost-- orchestra and chorus rehearsals for the Celebration Concert that is the culmination of the residency.   Over the course of the two weeks, classical music lovers have the chance to watch –and listen to – what happens behind the scenes leading up to a major performance.    Many of the events are followed by a Q&A session with the audience.  The orchestra rehearsals might be of particular interest, as Mr. Perlman serves as the conductor and wears a microphone during the sessions.   This affords the audience a rare chance to hear this music icon provide his guidance to the young musicians.   In addition, Mr. and Mrs. Perlman join the students and faculty in the chorus rehearsals and performance. 

This year PMP/Suncoast is layering on a new component to its program:  The PMP/Suncoast Super Strings Initiative.  After an audition process, 27 young violinists (ages 8 to 18) from Sarasota and Manatee Counties have been invited to participate in the winter residency.  These students will join the PMP String Orchestra, under the direction of Mr. Perlman, in a rehearsal of a Vivaldi violin concerto on January 2nd. 

Elizabeth Power, Executive Director of PMP/Suncoast, says, “We’re thrilled to offer young area violinists a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform under the baton of this renowned concert violinist and conductor.”  She went on to say, “But it’s also very significant that they will have the chance to perform with other gifted young musicians from around the world – in front of an audience under the performance tent on the campus of USF Sarasota-Manatee.”   

Courtesy Photo -- Ariel Quartet
Emerging Artists Performance Series

The Emerging Artist Performance Series is an additional element of The PMP/Suncoast Program.  The focus of this series is community outreach.  This year the series features four PMP-trained musicians who call themselves the Ariel Quartet.   Over the course of the 2013-2014 season, the Ariel Quartet will spend three weeks in Sarasota visiting local schools and performing affordable concerts for Southwest Florida music lovers.  The Quartet’s repertoire is The Beethoven Cycle:  Complete String Quartets.    The first two quartets were performed in October; the balance will be performed in February and May.   

PMP Alumni Chamber Music Concert

In addition to the program with the “littles”, PMP conducts a two week intensive chamber music workshop each summer.  Participants in this program are a bit older – college-aged students and young music professionals.  Recently, Mr. Perlman and PMP chamber music alumni performed a concert at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in honor of the 65th anniversary of the founding of Israel.   The caliber of the musicians was exceptional, and the concert offered a preview of sorts of what one might hear if you attend the winter residency’s Celebration Concert or a concert in the 

Emerging Artists Performance Series.

The evening began with Mozart’s Viola Quintet No. 3 in C major, K. 515.   The work was composed for two violins (played by Mr. Perlman and Arnaud Sussman), two violas (played by Andrew Gonzalez and Leah Ferguson), and a cello (played by Michael Katz).   The sold-out house quieted immediately when the musicians filed onto the stage, with Mr. Perlman in the rear on his scooter. 
Without any further ado, the music began, and it was glorious.  But if you listened without watching the performance, you missed half the show.  The joy that these young musicians brought to the stage was palpable.   As they played, their bodies (and Ms. Ferguson’s ponytail) swayed to the music.   Mr. Perlman truly shared the stage with this ensemble, each of whom had the opportunity to display his or her skill to its fullest.  The audience’s enthusiasm could not be contained, and people applauded without compunction after the close of each movement. 

The Four Seasons by Astor Piazzolla, as arranged by Desyatnikov, was the next piece in the program.   This work—inspired by the Argentine tango--was light years from what you would expect to hear at a chamber music concert.   Piazzolla was known as the inventor of the “nuevo tango,” essentially a jazzed up version of the tango with classical music forms.   The Four Seasons was performed by Mr. Sussmann on violin, Mr. Katz on cello, and Michael Bukhman on piano.  The music was soulful and sexy and exciting, and the audience waited with pounding hearts and bated breath for the next measure.  

The concert ended with the more traditional Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Op. 25.  Mr. Perlman returned to the stage for this work, which also featured Ms. Ferguson on viola, Brook Spelt on cello, and Mr. Bukhman on piano.  Again, the level of performance was astonishingly professional notwithstanding the fact that the musicians – other than Mr. Perlman – are in their early 20s.  

Musical Inspiration for All

While PMP/Suncoast is excited about all of its offerings, the winter residency is the cornerstone on which the program has been built.  Ms. Powers said, “The residency is an unparalleled opportunity for musicians, educators, and audiences alike to be inspired.”   Having the chance to get up close and personal with Mr. Perlman is merely icing on the cake.    

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