PBS’ ‘Amer­i­can Mas­ters: Itzhak’ pro­files a clas­si­cal mu­sic gi­ant

Santa Fe New Mexican - - CELEBRITY Q&A -

One needn’t be a clas­si­cal mu­sic fan to ap­pre­ci­ate the “Amer­i­can Mas­ters” doc­u­men­tary “Itzhak.” But it couldn’t hurt.

Pre­mier­ing Sun­day, Oct. 14, on PBS (check lo­cal list­ings), the 90-minute film from Ali­son Ch­er­nick (“Matthew Bar­ney: No Re­straint”) paints an in­ti­mate por­trait of world-renowned vi­o­lin­ist Itzhak Perl­man as a thought­ful, ar­tic­u­late and like­able man who tri­umphed over po­lio at an early age to rise to the top of his pro­fes­sion.

“I al­ways had to fight the peo­ple’s opin­ions about what a per­son with a dis­abil­ity can or can­not do,” Perl­man ex­plained to a re­cent gath­er­ing of jour­nal­ists in Bev­erly Hills, Calif. “... And then when I had this op­por­tu­nity to go to the states, to ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ (in 1958), that ba­si­cally solved all my prob­lems as to ... whether I could do it or not. And, of course, my par­ents al­ways be­lieved in me and that was re­ally very, very im­por­tant.”

The film cap­tures the Is­raeli­born and -raised Perl­man, now 73 and wheel­chair-bound, at his Man­hat­tan home with his large Jewish fam­ily, teach­ing mu­sic at Juil­liard and in con­ver­sa­tions with fam­ily and friends, in­clud­ing ac­tor Alan Alda, singer Billy Joel, pi­anist Martha Arg­erich, cel­list Mis­cha Maisky and his wife of 50 years, Toby.

And then of course, there are the mu­si­cal per­for­mances, which are many and demon­strate his in­cred­i­ble tech­nique and abil­ity to ex­press emo­tion through his vi­o­lin.

“I’m trans­ported by the ac­tual mu­sic,” Perl­man ex­plains. “You know, I’m think­ing about what the mu­sic says to me and how I can ex­press that mu­sic. So ... it con­sists ba­si­cally of har­monies and notes and some­times har­monies have a way of trans­form­ing some­body’s emo­tions. And in my case, if there is a har­monic ex­pe­ri­ence, if you will, in a piece of mu­sic, it does some­thing to me, and I re­act ap­pro­pri­ately.”

Itzhak Perl­man

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