There’s nothing new here but these four slipcased DVDs seem to have been compiled to mark Itzhak Perlman’s 70th birthday. There is nothing otherwise distinctive about the slip-card that houses the individual DVDs and no mention of the landmark birthday. In fact one of them, the concert devoted to the 60th anniversary of the Israel Philharmonic, features Perlman in a very minor role; he is certainly not the star attraction. I’ve already reviewed by far the most recent concert footage, a Beethoven evening with Perlman conducting, not playing the violin. If you’re a fiddle fancier your voltage will have dropped as this is now down to two-and-a-bit DVDs devoted to Perlman the violinist – and fewer if you exclude the orchestral items. In fact I’ll save you the addition and subtraction. In all Perlman plays the violin for around 127 minutes.
The Tchaikovsky concert footage is very well-known - Perlman, the Philadelphia and Ormandy in 1979. The conductor, himself an ex-fiddler, of course, who made a number of 78s in that capacity, directs without stand or score. Perlman takes his time over the opening paragraphs; eyes shut tight, mouth characteristically mobile. Ormandy remains implacable and the camera angles – all very straight-forward - catch the orchestra’s personnel quite well. Perlman experiences a little technical strain as he hits the cadenza but recovers splendidly and receives rapturous applause. The central movement is flowingly warm and there’s an especially lyric B section in the finale. There are fortunately a good number of camera angles in Romeo and Juliet – winds and harps are all visible – in what is a malleable, integrated but not especially moving performance. Pictures was taped the previous year. Fans of the orchestra’s fabled orchestral choirs can feast on them in this recording. We can also listen to this performance in the light of Pristine Audio’s new restoration of Ormandy’s recording of the orchestration made by Lucien Caillet, the orchestra’s principal bass clarinettist. Perlman returns in the next disc. The Prokofiev First comes from the BBC Symphony’s 50th anniversary concert and finds him in sizzling form. The 1980 recording quality in the Royal Albert Hall is less dry here than in the companion Elgar Concerto from the following year and thus Perlman’s tone colours are more audible; a nice close-up allows one to see Perlman bowing very near the bridge and to catch the oscillations of the bow itself. There’s just a brief moment of green tinge to the film at one point. The Elgar is classic Perlman - technically commanding and eloquent. Only a certain raffinť quality in the opening movement doesn’t quite pay dividends. There are plenty of children at this concert. The picture goes briefly fuzzy in the finale. The audience gives the performances a huge cheer – Rozhdestvensky is the conductor for both concertos. There’s a 1970 Saint-SaŽns Introduction and Rondo Capriccio with Charles Mackerras and the Sadler’s Wells Orchestra at the Coliseum – a blue screen behind them. Perlman’s tone is more honeyed here, though there are a limited number of cameras. Somewhat whimsically the curtain comes down on the players at the end.
This leaves the Israel Philharmonic anniversary concert which, national anthem over, opens with a speech from Isaac Stern. Barenboim conducts a robust Oberon overture, before Stern and Gil Shaham play the Bach Double Concerto. The string body is small, there’s a harpsichord (semi-audible) and Stern directs. Then Shlomo Mintz, Shaham, Menahem Breuer and Maxim Vengerov play another fiddlers’ party-piece, Vivaldi’s B minor Concerto for four violins. Mehta presides, Mintz is the de facto leader of the foursome – the most patrician of them as well – and Shaham seems to be the one enjoying it most. Mozart’s Serenata Notturna – where Pinchas Zukerman shares the soloistic honours with the young Ariel Shamai – is followed by Zukerman (playing viola) and Perlman’s well-known version of the Halvorsen-Handel Passacaglia – incorrectly called Passacaglia and Sarabande in the booklet. This is Perlman’s only appearance in this DVD. The concert ends with Mehta’s middle-of-the-road Brahms D major symphony. Navigation is proficient for this last DVD.
The booklets are perfectly adequate. As noted there are brief patches of film degradation or damage. Whether this set of discs appeals to you depends very much on how much you want – in these days of YouTube – every scrap of Perlman in boxed form.
Jonathan Woolf Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Egmont Overture, Op.84 Triple Concerto in C major, Op.56 Symphony No.6 in F major, Op.68 Pastoral
Navah Perlman (piano); Giora Schmidt (violin); Zuill Bailey (cello)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Itzhak Perlman
rec. 22 March 2010, in concert, Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, Israel
TV Format NTSC 16:9: Sound PCM Stereo: Region Code 0 (worldwide) [90:00]
Peter TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) Violin Concerto in D major, Op.35 Romeo and Juliet, Op.18 Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881) (arr. Ravel) Pictures at an Exhibition
Itzhak Perlman (violin)
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy
TV Format NTSC 4:3: Sound PCM Stereo, Doby Digital 5.1 DTS 5.1: Region Code 0 (worldwide) [89:00]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) Violin Concerto in B minor, Op.61 Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)
Violin Concerto No.1 in D major, Op.19 Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
Itzhak Perlman (violin)
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Gennadi Rozhdestvensky
Orchestra of Sadler’s Wells/Charles Mackerras
rec. 1980 (Prokofiev): 1981 (Elgar): 1971 (Saint-SaŽns)
TV Format NTSC 4:3: Sound PCM Mono: Region Code 0 (worldwide) [81:00]
60thAnniversary Concert of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Overture to Oberon Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Concerto for two violins and orchestra, BWV1043 Antonio VIVALDI (1678-1741)
Concerto in B minor for four violins and orchestra, RV580 Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Serenade No.6 in D major, KV239 ‘Serenata Notturna’ Johan HALVORSEN (1864-1935)
Passacaglia on a theme of Handel Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Symphony No.2 in D major, Op.73
Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman, Shlomo Mintz, Gil Shaham, Maxim Vengerov, Menahem Breuer and Ariel Shamai (violins)
Israel Philharmonic Orchestra/Zubin Mehta and Daniel Barenboim
TV Format NTSC 16:9: Sound PCM Stereo: Region Code 0 (worldwide) [94:00]