by Michael Lyons, Music Director
The year 1995 was a big one for violin-great Itzhak Perlman. It was in that year that he turned 50 years of age. As I count down the months to that symbolic number myself I can appreciate why it might have stirred a certain Renaissance in an otherwise weary performer who had been endlessly globe trotting—performing in the world’s great recital halls and with the world’s greatest orchestra night after night, making countless recordings, then, stopping off in California to make his token Tonight Show appearances and televised awards shows etc. and doing it all with his physical disability to boot. Understandably, Itzhak had reached a point, to my ear, where he was relying on his international superstar reputation and on occasion was discovered to be “phoning it in”.
In 1995 EMI launched no less than three new recordings by Perlman as part of a birthday celebration, all of which seemed to contain a newfound spark—Perlman seemed to be playing with that youthful enthusiasm we had come to expect from his early years (once again I refer to the exhilarating 1972 recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concert-re-issued by CHESKY). And of the CDs that arrived that year, one caught my ear and fancy and has remained a favorite ever-since.
A LA CARTE is not the typical violin encore disc–requisite for all violinists. This release offered all kinds of new and interesting menu items ranging from the slow and contemplative to the fresh and titillating.
The surprise track on this disc for me appeared out of nowhere—a piece I had never heard but I have since listened to endlessly at home and while on the air—–the Mazurka-Obereque of Alexander Glazunov erupts with all the effervescence of a freshly opened bottle of Dom Perignon. The bubbles flow for the entire ten minute duration of the piece and Itzhak has never sounded better. According to the notes this delightful music was originally written for violin and piano in 1917 and then orchestrated later that year. The Orberek (or Orbertass) is a quick dance in triple time and very similar in character to the more familiar mazurka but unique to the Mazowsje region of Poland. I dare you to try and get tired of this piece — it has a Duracell Bunny lifespan and it alone is worth the price of the CD. Itzhak Perlman, many happy returns!
(EMI 5 55475 2)