As often happens in the rarified world of prominent classical performers, personal pathways can intertwine and evolve over decades and continents. Nine years ago, when a peripatetic young Josep Caballé-Domenech chose to work in Colorado Springs and assume the musical helm of the Philharmonic, he inherited an already-booked season that featured gala star, Itzhak Perlman. The celebrated violinist was to wow local audiences in a March 2012 series of performances – the conductor’s first American superstar in his new role.
Maestro Caballé-Domench recalls,“Growing up, I had seen Perlman perform in Barcelona, London, and Vienna, and I had fond memories of these performances.” Recalling the inspirational experiences from his youth made it especially meaningful for Caballé-Domenech to welcome the iconic string master to the stage of his new orchestra. “This was the first big name that I performed with in Colorado Springs. It was an amazing musical and human experience.”
As much as he is known for his stratospheric musicianship, Perlman is also cherished for his wit, jovial nature, and humanity. That authenticity was not lost on the new Philharmonic conductor. “The time that I spent with him at the 2012 concert here was extraordinarily memorable for me,” Caballé-Domenech reflects.
It is unsurprising, then, that Perlman has remained on the list of potential guest artists that the Philharmonic reaches out to as part of its ongoing mission to bring internationally acclaimed musicians to the Pikes Peak region. Virtuosos such as Yo-Yo Ma, Jan Vogler, Sharon Isbin, and Conrad Tao have traveled here to partner with the orchestra in both big-stage and small-stage venues. Perlman’s return engagement with the orchestra is held with great anticipation by many in the community, including the orchestra members. In fact, the performance is sold out.
“To have Perlman return a second time sends a strong signal,” Caballé-Domenech observes. “He is coming back, because he remembers his last experience and enjoyed performing here in 2012. Our musicians know that this is proof we are doing good work together.”
Perlman’s fascinating personal history began in 1945 in Tel Aviv, where he was born to Polish emigres. As a toddler, his immense talent was already emerging and, despite contracting polio, he fervently pursued his study and education in the violin. By age 13, his family had immigrated to the US, where he began studies at the Juilliard School. In America, he quickly skyrocketed to fame, appearing twice on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 and debuting at Carnegie Hall in 1963.
Since then, Perlman has appeared on stage with every major orchestra in the world, gaining international acclaim and the kind of fandom that transcends mere critical appreciation and grows into something like reverence for this remarkable artist. He has performed for world leaders, including President Bush, President Obama, and Queen Elizabeth.
The list of artistic recognitions and accomplishments that he has amassed over his career would fill many pages, but in the United States these include dozens of Grammys and Emmys. More recently, he has expanded his influence by taking to the conductor’s podium with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as the symphony orchestras of San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Montreal, and Toronto.
Live performance, however, is not his only medium. Perlman also has a significant portfolio of recordings. His discography includes leading labels such as EMI, Decca, His Master’s Voice, RCA, and Angel. His best-selling Vivaldi: The Four Seasons is widely considered to be one of his great recorded masterpieces.
When not performing or recording, Perlman pursues yet another of his passions: teaching. He instructs string players “of rare and special talent” at The Perlman Music Program, a supportive but intensive musical community held each summer on Shelter Island. Additionally, he holds the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Chair in Violin Studies at the Juilliard School.
Outside of the musical realm, Perlman’s vast contributions to the arts, education, and support of persons with disabilities have been noted by three presidents. He received the National Medal of Liberty in 1986 from President Reagan; the National Medal of Arts in 2000 from President Clinton; and the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation’s highest civilian honor – in 2015 from President Obama. Leading educational institutions have also embraced him. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Roosevelt, Yeshiva, and Hebrew universities.
But despite his enormous prowess, he is known to have a zest for life that spills over into more light-hearted and varied appearances. He has been a notable guest and audience favorite on diverse television sound stages that have included David Letterman, Steven Colbert, Sesame Street, and The Frugal Gourmet.
Though no additional significance needs to be attached to Perlman’s February 27 appearance in Colorado Springs, it happens that 2020 is the 250th anniversary of Ludwig von Beethoven’s birth. That makes it especially meaningful that Perlman will deliver a masterful rendering of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto as part of this program. The Philharmonic will also perform For Spacious Skies by Anthony DiLorenzo and Inspiring Beethoven by Kevin Puts.
Perlman once noted, “Beethoven concertos … with a lot of these wonderful masterpieces there’s always something wonderful to find … there’s always something new to find.” And the Colorado Springs audience will have the pleasure of watching one of the greats find that something … wonderful and new… in concert with the Philharmonic.