The program Perlman is formally committed to playing — with the tantalizing qualification of “Additional works to be announced from the stage" — include Ludwig van Beethoven's Sonata No. 1 in D-Major for Violin and Piano, Opus 12, No. 1; Edvard Grieg's Sonata No. 3 in C-Minor for Violin and Piano, Opus 45; and Giuseppe Tartini's Sonata in G-Minor for Violin and Continuo, “Devil’s Trill” (arranged by Fritz Kreisler).
Ever reluctant to proclaim any artist “the greatest," I feel no compunction in saying that there is certainly no greater violinist now on our concert stages than Perlman. Given a certain, very high level of artistic achievement, the final arbiter of an artist's position relative to his or her peers can only be the taste and preference of the individual listener. It doesn't hurt that, in addition to his dazzling fiddle-playing, Perlman is also lovable, decent and modest to a fault.
It was while watching an interview with Perlman that I began to reflect on a curious phenomenon — the greatest musicians that I had heard in conversation were invariably doing their best to present themselves as regular guys (or gals) who just got lucky. Dashiell Hammett's classic formula "The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter" can be neatly and precisely inverted in the case of virtuoso musicians: The greater the musician, the more emphatically homespun the talk (except conductors, of course).
The cause is not far to seek. Of all the fine arts, music is the most mysterious and uncanny. For Perlman — or Daniel Barenboim, or Yo-Yo Ma, or ... — to take full credit for his own brilliance would no doubt feel, even to one recalling the long, grueling hours of practice and rehearsal, the worst kind of hubris, a veritable invitation to the Furies. That needn't stop us from giving credit where credit is due: Wherever Perlman's gifts came from, he has, beyond question, shaped them into something very like perfection.
Beethoven wrote several bravura showpieces for violin and piano, but the No. 1 in D-Major is not of their number. It sounds clearly intended for the parlor rather than the concert hall. Beauties abound, of course, but they are beauties that are accessible to far less talented violinists than Perlman. That said, I daresay he will unearth a few passages that leave us gasping.
The Grieg sonata is a powerful, commanding work, somewhat unexpected from a composer 4 feet 10 inches in his stocking feet, who, when he would interrupt work to go for a walk, was accustomed to leave a note on the unfinished score for thieves to find if they broke in during his absence: "Dear Thieves, Please don't bother with these papers — they are worthless." The first time I heard it — in a 1928 recording by Kreisler and Sergei Rachmaninoff — I was amazed, spellbound. No doubt Perlman's rendering will be a revelation.
Notwithstanding the Grieg, the most impressive work on the printed program is the oldest. I won't bore you with the story of the reputed origins of the Tartini sonata, but there is a reason why it is the last work on the schedule: It tends to clear one's memory of everything that went before.
Single tickets to see Perlman are $38 to $103, and are available at the Granada Theatre box office, which can be reached by phone at 805.899.2222 or online by clicking here.