Saturday, January 14, 2012

Itzhak Perlman, conductor and violin

Back from seeing (and hearing) Itzhak Perlman at Strathmore, along with a completely packed full house. My friend, who knows much more about music than I do and is more particular about where to sit, could only score the second to last row of the orchestra, which is saying something about what it meant to see the master: Bring binoculars.

Well, my friend forgot her binoculars, which isn't surprising, because she'd nearly forgotten the tickets. Or at least the one extra ticket that I'd already paid her for; somehow it got separated from her own ticket. She did find it, but accidentally tore it; she's a season subscriber to the Strathmore, though, so they were willing to replace the torn ticket at the box office.

My point in relaying this adventure is to demonstrate that, though she knows more about classical music than I do, and is as committed to her season subscription at Strathmore as I am to my Round House and Shakespeare and American Ballet Theater (when they come to town), there wasn't much enlightenment from her on what I was to expect tonight. Did I want to see Itzhak Perlman? Sure.

But it didn't occur to me that he wouldn't be playing the violin for the entire evening. After the two Vivaldi Seasons (Winter and Summer), which Mr. Perlman conducted as he bowed, he returned exclusively to conduct the Mozart (Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183) and the Brahms (Symphony No. 4 in E Minor, Opus 98).

The conducting was impeccable, but I wanted to watch more than Mr. Perlman's back. So I resorted to my usual approach to enjoying a symphony: visualizing it as dance. This was especially fruitful in the Brahms, whose opening calls of horns took me to the hunt; in the melancholy second movement, we are dragging our weary horses and hounds back home; the bright third movement, with its undertones of turmoil, is a celebratory ball; and the powerful fourth movement is a confrontation between the young revolutionary and his betrothed's father, stalwartly defending the old order.

But my friend, who knows more about classical music than I do (but who had to be nudged from her nodding drowsiness a couple of times. Ahem), didn't especially care for the Brahms. Different strokes, I guess.

And interestingly, she kept trying to point out someone in the orchestra who would be of interest to me:

Friend: "The guy sitting right on the other side of Itzhak. He looks like Clay Aiken."

Me (peering through my binoculars): "You mean the one who looks like [a young] Lyle Lovett?"

Friend (borrowing my binoculars): "Oh. Heh."

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