Any time Itzhak Perlman schedules three relatively little-known works, as he did Saturday night at the Kennedy Center, and then concludes the written program with the notation "selections to be announced from the stage," you can expect fireworks at the end.
He began the previously unannounced selections with two Kreisler morceaux. The first was the prelude and allegro in the style of Pugnani, one of the truly exhilarating little works written for the violin. It exercises the enormous intervals between the G and E strings in a bravura way that a virtuoso of Perlman's caliber -- there is none better -- can knock you out with.
Then came a smaller morceau by Kreisler, called "syncopation," which Perlman described as "ragtime from Vienna" and which he played that way.
One should not infer that singling out these Kreisler pieces from a program that included Beethoven, Prokofiev and Dvora'k means that Perlman was indulging in trivia. The truth is that Kreisler is one of the more underrated composers, sometimes a sort of Johann Strauss of the violin. He was not a writer of display pieces for his own violin. At his best he has a melodic and harmonic instinct that is captivating.
On the printed program, it was the Prokofiev first sonata that was most impressive, with its splendid balance between order and irony -- a little less bitter than Shostakovich. The "Four Romantic Pieces" by Dovra'k flowed beautifully. The Beethoven A major sonata was lovely but not very consequential.
Above all, what a command of his instrument Perlman has!