“Simply Stunning!” Itzhak Perlman LIVE! at STNJ

Spotlight Central
Spotlight Central
Published in
7 min readMar 4, 2024

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By Spotlight Central. Photos by Love Imagery

Inside the State Theatre New Jersey lobby this Saturday, February 24, 2024 evening, music lovers chat as they wait for the historic auditorium to open for a special performance by Itzhak Perlman. Perlman, who has been honored with 16 Grammy awards, four Emmy awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, is here tonight as a part of the New Brunswick, NJ venue’s annual “Classical Season Celebration.”

Explains Ericka from Watchung, “We just moved to the area and were looking for something to do this weekend. This is our first experience at the State Theatre — the decor is just beautiful — and we’re thrilled to be here to see Itzhak Perlman.” Comments Dave from New Brunswick, “We love supporting live concerts, especially classical music. What better way is there to spend a Saturday evening than with a world-class violinist like Itzhak Perlman? I’m just in awe of his talent and dedication.”

Remarks Stephanie from Lititz, PA, “I always wanted to see Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman live. For Christmas, my husband surprised me with tickets to see Yo-Yo Ma in NY, and tonight we’re here for Itzhak Perlman.” Recalling, “I’m originally from New Jersey and used to come to the State Theatre on school trips, so this concert comes full circle for me,” Stephanie concludes, “I love Itzhak Perlman — I listen to his music every day as I work from home — and getting to see him live is a dream come true.”

The auditorium doors open and patrons find their seats. STNJ President and CEO Sarah Chaplin greets the packed house stating, “Thank you so much for being here tonight,” before going on to explain how tonight’s “Classical Season Celebration” performance not only helps raise money for concerts at STNJ, but also supports arts education programs which bring classical music to young audiences in local schools.

The lights dim and Perlman, 78, enters via electric scooter, taking his position center stage. Pianist Rohan DeSilva sits at the piano, accompanied by a page turner, and he and Perlman begin tonight’s recital with a performance of Handel’s Violin Sonata in E Major, Op. 1.

Opening with the slow and elegant “Adagio” movement, the duo’s trills and long flowing lines wrap around the audience. Soon, the musicians pick up the pace in terms of tempo and complexity on the piece’s “Allegro” movement.

Perlman’s quick runs on the violin delight the crowd and even inspire some concertgoers to overlook concert etiquette and applaud in between movements.

On the piece’s third section, “Largo,” slow mournful chords accompany Perlman’s melancholy melody before the artists segue into the piece’s final segment, “Allegro,” a happy tune that concludes with a flourish at the end.

Music lovers respond with avid applause, and Perlman takes a bow from his scooter as DeSilva rises to take a bow. The musicians leave the stage and soon return, at which point Perlman takes the mic and mentions that the duo’s first selection was written by Handel.

Perlman jokes, “While I was backstage, I had a conversation with Mr. Beethoven who said he would prefer that the audience not applaud between movements of his piece — but I told him I didn’t care!” prior to adding, “Just to remind you: the next sonata has three movements — the first, the second, and the third,” invoking chuckles from many classical music afficianados in the crowd.

Moving on to Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano № 9 in A Major, on the piece’s first movement — “Adagio sostenuto — Presto” — Perlman starts off by playing a slow and regal violin solo. DeSilva’s chordal piano playing follows and Perlman answers with sustained notes that hang in the air until the movement quickens and dances with flourishes and runs. Playing high and low with quick strokes to DeSilva’s rolling piano accompaniment, Perlman’s performance builds in intensity as his violin creates tension and movement with each stroke of his bow.

DeSilva starts off on piano before Perlman adds his voice to the piece’s second movement, “Andante con variazioni.” Delicate, soft strains fill the auditorium prior to Perlman’s quick and precise violin playing. DeSilva’s piano accompaniment is filled with trills and arpeggios which contrast with Perlman’s staccato plucking of his violin strings.

On the third movement, “Finale (Presto),” Perlman saws quickly with his bow. Like a ballerina, the notes jump and prance around the room with lightness, speed, and agility before the piece reaches its triumphant conclusion and the audience erupts in applause. Concertgoers rise as Perlman and DeSilva take a bow and leave the stage.

Following a short intermission, Perlman and DeSilva return to open Act II with Schumann’s Fantasiestucke, Op. 73. Commencing withZart und mit Ausdruck” — a tender movement that starts with a long rolling piano accompaniment which underscores swelling violin lines that rise and fall like waves — the piece quickly shifts into “Lebhaft, leicht,” a segment which features a playful give-and-take between the two instrumentalists.

The piece concludes with the composition’s final movement, “Rasch und hit Feuer,” which features the pair playing quick fervent runs that rise and fall with ferocious intensity.

The audience cheers as the musicians bow and Perlman motions for the audience to continue applauding prior to joking, “I’m trying to figure out why you stopped clapping. Could it have been you’ve heard this before?”

The recital continues with a trio of encores which Perlman calls out from the stage. First, he announces Smetana’s “From My Homeland,” about which he acknowledges, “There is a reason I’m playing it, and the reason is because I like it!” The audience enjoys the piece’s longing and comforting melody which is followed by a strong, quick moving section which inspires shouts of “Bravo!” from music lovers who rise to their feet to applaud.

Joking that his next encore comes from “a minor movie and a minor composer,” Perlman launches into a highlight of tonight’s program, a live performance of his original recording of John Williams’ “Theme from Schindler’s List.” The warm, round sound of Perlman’s unamplified violin fills the hall on this mesmerizingly beautiful and haunting piece. There is silence in the room as Perlman’s final notes hang in the air and audience memers rise yet again for Perlman and DeSilva who take a bow prior to leaving the stage.

For a final encore, Perlman and DeSilva return to perform Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesfraud,” a lilting and flowing waltz which leaves the happy crowd standing, cheering, and applauding for an enchanting evening of music.

As concertgoers make their way out of the STNJ auditorium, several comment on tonight’s performance. Declares Gwyneth from Highland Park, a violin student at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, “Itzhak Perlman is a major influence for me — he’s one of my favorite violinists — and his concert tonight was just amazing! I loved watching his technique, his coordination with the pianist, and how he presented himself to the audience,” before concluding, “Being here tonight was a fantastic experience.”

Kyson from Princeton insists, “This was an amazing concert! It’s so impressive that Itzhak Perlman is not only still playing — but playing so well — at the age of 78.” Revealing, “I study violin in Philadelphia and want to pursue a career as a violinist,” Kyson recalls, “About six years ago, I actually met Mr. Perlman in New York City. It was a spontaneous meeting where I approached him on the street, and he was so kind, giving me words of wisdom, like ‘Make sure to practice slowly.’ I’m hoping to meet him again tonight and thank him for his great advice.”

Claire from New Brunswick acknowledges, “I’ve heard Itzhak Perlman on recordings — I like to listen to classical music while I’m studying — but this was the first time I’ve ever gotten to see a soloist of his stature in concert. It was a wonderful experience being here in person.” Lastly, Belinda from East Brunswick remarks, “It’s a privilege that Itzhak Perlman came to New Brunswick this evening to perform for us,” prior to concluding, “I’ve wanted to see him for such a long time and his program tonight was simply stunning!”

To learn more about Itzhak Perlman, please go to itzhakperlman.com. For information on future performances at New Brunswick’s STNJ — including Audra McDonald on March 15, the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra on March 17, and the NJSO presents “Epic Scores of John Williams and More” on June 2 — please click on stnj.org.

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