Itzhak Perlman celebrates his 71st birthday this week.
Since appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958 when he was 13, Perlman has become the world's best-known violinist. Like Yehudi Menuhin or Jascha Heifetz earlier in the 20th century, Perlman's name became synonymous with excellence on the violin.
He mastered the art of playing the violin in a most appealing way. His heart is in the Romantic period sensibility of those who came before him, with an emphasis on beautiful sound and emotional expression.
Although the emerging authentic performance practices of the period-instrument movement would affect stylistic preferences for some—especially in Baroque and Classical era music—a beautiful, sweet, rich tone and emotional expressiveness are the hallmarks of Perlman's playing.
If you have time to listen to the whole piece, Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D is a pristine example.
A shorter example that captures the brilliance of his playing is J.S. Bach. Listen to a single movement or, better yet, all six sections of Violin Partita No. 3 in E:
Perlman also gives great down-to-earth advice on practicing to other musicians.
A couple of years ago in an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep, Perlman told him:
"My goal is to not be bored by what I do."
That sounds like good advice, no matter what you're doing. Considering all the recordings of Perlman I've heard over the years, I have to say, he's never sounded bored.
Happy birthday, Itzhak, and may you play for many more years to come.