Itzhak Perlman performed a laid-back and brilliantly executed concert last night at the Kennedy Center, a benefit for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund.
Only the two sonatas that came before intermission appeared in the printed program. And afterward he announced encore-type pieces from the stage -- five of them.
As anyone who has seen him on a television talk show already knows, Perlman can be a funny man.
He started the second half by reading from the program, in Victor Borge style, saying that the next piece is called, "Selections will be announced from the stage." "No opus number," he added. Then he made a big pretense of going through a stack of music to find it, as the audience roared with laughter.
The second encore was preceded by a detailed explanation of how the piece had only recently been discovered "in a Belgrade library, in shreds." It turned out to be "Jeanie With the Light Brown Hair."
Of all contemporary violinists, Perlman is the one least likely to produce a sour note, and I didn't hear one all evening.
In the sonatas -- Beethoven's early one in D major, Op. 12, No. 1 and the sonata by Frank -- interpretations were straightforward, never cool, but never really white hot.
In the second part of the concert, there was some incredible playing: a variation in Kreisler's Variations on a Theme by Tartini that consisted entirely of double stops; the conclusion of Batsini's "Dance of the Goblins," in which Perlman was simultaneously bowing at the bridge with his right hand while also playing pizzicato with his left on the finger board. Terrific!