Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman to help open Springfield Symphony Orchestra season

Two legendary composers will be complemented by a living legend and violin virtuoso as the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) opens its “Off the Charts” season Saturday.

Famed violinist Itzhak Perlman will bring the artistry that has led to his performing for American presidents, queens and other dignitaries when he takes on Ludwig Van Beethoven’s “Violin Concerto” at 7:30 p.m. at the Clark State Performing Arts Center (PAC). Tickets are still available.

Used to playing some of the world’s grand concert halls, this will be the second time Perlman has played the Kuss Auditorium. He entertained here in the PAC’s early years, and his daughter Navah played with the SSO for a time.

As long as there’s a stage and the acoustics are good, the facility size isn’t important.

“If it’s a city that has an orchestra that wants to play good music. Why shouldn’t I go? There’s an intimacy if a hall is a little smaller,” Perlman said. “A live audience is the best. You have a vibe coming from the concert hall to the stage back and forth.

“A concert is an experience for an audience not so much the venue. You can tell what an audience will be like; if they are saying hello, it makes me feel good.”

Perlman began thinking about “Violin Concerto” as a youngster of 15 or 16 and encountered problems in making it sound right. Now, the piece has become like an old friend, with the key being the phrasing and constructing the phrasing to make sense.

“It’s probably the greatest violin concerto in many ways. It’s extremely difficult and very, very challenging. It’s Beethoven at his best,” he said. “When students say they want to play it, I say welcome to a lifetime experience where the journey is just beginning and to last for the rest of your career.”

Not only will the audience see Perlman perform, but will hear the concerto on one of the most legendary instruments of all – a Soil violin created by Stradivarius in 1714 that was previously owned by Yehudi Menuhin, another of the 20th Century’s great violinists.

“It’s the violin of my dreams. It cost about as much as buying as a first house,” he said, laughing.

At age 77 with an abundance of honors, accolades and accomplishments to his credit, Perlman remains enthused as ever for music.

“I want to stay interested in what I’m doing, and I am,” he said. “I have a three-pronged musical experience: I teach, I play concerts and I conduct – for me what could be better? Right now, I’m so excited with every performance. I’ve played the Beethoven concerto quite a few times and it still excites me and is still presents a challenge. As long as I continue to be interested in doing, that’s my goal.”

SSO musical director and conductor Peter Stafford Wilson has chosen Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Symphony No. 9″ with the SSO for the evening’s theme of musical revolutionaries.

Wilson has worked to bring in talent that can also showcase the SSO and has a longtime relationship with Perlman’s manager. It meant matching dates and maneuvering that resulted in his appearance on Saturday, with several people contributing to help accommodate the show.

“The Springfield Symphony has a distinguished history of presenting the stars of symphonic music,” he said. “We have drifted away from that heritage because of escalating costs and a desire to focus our resources on the orchestra personnel. We look forward to returning to that mission of presenting the finest talent here on our stage.

“Itzhak Perlman is one of the most gifted artists in all music. His sound, his musicianship, and his dedication to the artform make him a leader in classical music, one that defines modern musical thought. It is a thrill and an honor for the orchestra and me to create music with him.”


What: Springfield Symphony Orchestra – Itzhak Perlman

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 South Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

Admission: $90-135

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