When casinos first began presenting classical entertainers on stages more accustomed to Don Rickles and Tom Jones, the popular misconception was that highbrow artists needed to dumb down their performances for the gaming crowd.
After all, does scotch and soda really mix with Ludwig von Beethoven and Igor Stravinsky?
Turns out they do, according to Itzhak Perlman. The violin virtuoso, conductor and teacher won’t alter his usual program when he performs Sat., Nov. 28, at Resorts Atlantic City. He’ll do the same material in the Superstar Theatre as he would in Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center.
“The venue may be different,” Perlman says, “but people are people.”
Besides, he adds, he’s not performing for a casino; he’s working for an audience.
“Maybe [the audience] happens to be in a casino, but the casino is just a venue,” he adds. “I’m playing for the people that are there.”
Although he isn’t sure exactly what material he’ll perform, it’ll likely be a combination of classical standards and a few unfamiliar pieces just to challenge himself and introduce his audience to something new. He won’t change the program on account of his surroundings.
Near the end of his recital, he may perform what he calls “bon-bons,” just like the small sweet treats.
“[They’re] little candies, pieces which are light and fluffy and really very, very pretty,” he says.
Sometimes, he won’t know what he’ll close a show with until he’s on stage rifling through a pile of sheet music to see if some musical spirit moves him. He admits these improvisational moments occasionally give fits to the pianist who accompanies, especially when he hauls out an unfamiliar piece of music.
“Sometimes after a program my pianist says, ‘You almost gave me a heart attack, I’ve never played that piece before,’” Perlman, 64, says with a laugh during a recent media conference call.
Although he owns many fine instruments, he’s already decided which violin he’ll use Saturday. He’ll play his Soil (pronounced Swah) Stradavarius, produced in 1714 and considered by many experts to be the greatest-sounding violin ever produced. Perlman acquired the instrument from the late virtuoso Yehudi Menuhin in 1986.
“That’s my baby,” Perlman, 64, says. “It’s a great fiddle.”
He doesn’t feel it’s necessary to tell the audience about the violin he’s playing, or its three-century history. He believes the instrument, worth well over $1 million, has its own voice.
“I let the Strad speak for itself,” he explains.
The Israeli-born Perlman, a naturalized American citizen, was part of the quartet of classical musicians who performed at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in January. He felt honored to have been asked to perform at the event, because it exposed classical music to a national television audience estimated at over 200 million.
One other thing about that historic day stands out, too.
“It was so cold that I don’t think I’ve ever felt such coldness,” he recalls. “We were sitting there for like an hour before [performing] in that cold weather, and I was amazed that the people who were on the stage ... all looked like it was summertime.”
While audiences may believe there’s no room for spontaneity in a classical program, Perlman says that’s not always the case.
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