Itzhak Perlman plays Mozart and conducts Tchaikovsky

Gordon and I went to Disney Hall to hear Itzhak Perlman and the LA Phil last night. I think Zuben Mehta was the conductor the last time I saw Perlman perform–and that was a long time ago. Back then Mehta carried Perlman’s violin while Perlman crutched to his chair. Then Perlman would pull a baton from his sleeve and trade instruments with Mehta. Everybody chuckled. Last night Perlman rode out on his scooter (he looked like a fat Walmart shopper–except he’s not fat), parked, and crutched his way to his seat. It looks like a struggle every time but he wouldn’t accept any help and he never fell. When he got to his seat he pulled his baton from his sleeve–just like the old days. The crowd went wild even before he played Mozart’s Adagio in G major. Again, the crowd went wild. He played and conducted a small group, most were the second string of the Phil (lots of kids but they were good). Then he conducted Mozart’s Sym #27. It was good but I’ve never really been a fan of early Mozart. I think it’s interesting that a man with such a chaotic private life could write such disciplined, controlled music. Perlman got back on his scooter and rolled out and the Teamsters added chairs and music stands for the second half.

Perlman rolled back in and climbed three stairs (it looked like a specially built podium; it was raw plywood). By God, it looked like it was close but Perlman never fell. You have to have to hand it to him; he won’t take help, he does it himself. Then he conducted Tchaikovsky’s Sym #5. I don’t think I’ve heard that symphony played live in years. Esa-Pekka hated the warhorses; he preferred playing new music with brake drums and Swiss cow bells. But Perlman seemed to enjoy it. As a matter of fact, he conducted with one hand and played air violin with the other. I would have been petrified to play in front of him if I’d been one of the young violinists but they did a wonderful job. The symphony was spectacular and Perlman and the orchestra got a standing ovation–which they deserved, in this case. And we had a lot of time to cheer because Perlman had to navigate the steps and roll out in his scooter. I’m glad I got to go to the concert. Perlman is 70 and I don’t know how many more trips he’s good for. We’re all getting old.


About Barbara Schnell

I've dedicated my life to full-time employment avoidance. I've been an actress, renovated a 1921 California Bungalow, set a cash-winning record on $25,000 Pyramid, and came in last on Jeopardy. I live in Los Angeles with my patient husband and two cats.
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