Undeniably the reigning virtuoso of the violin, Itzhak Perlman enjoys superstar status rarely afforded a classical musician. Beloved for his charm and humanity as well as his talent, he has come to be recognized by audiences all over the world who respond not only to his flawless technique, but to the irrepressible joy of making music which he communicates.
Born in Israel in 1945, Mr. Perlman completed his initial training at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. He came to New York and soon was propelled into the international arena with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958. Following his studies at the Juilliard School with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay, Mr. Perlman won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964, which led to a burgeoning worldwide career.
Since then, Itzhak Perlman has appeared with every major orchestra and in recitals and festivals throughout the world. In November of 1987 he joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra for history-making concerts in Warsaw and Budapest, representing the first performances by this orchestra and soloist in Eastern bloc countries. He again made history as he joined the Israel Philharmonic for its first visit to the Soviet Union in April/May of 1990, and was cheered by audiences in Moscow and Leningrad who thronged to hear his recital and orchestral performances. In December of 1994 he joined the Israel Philharmonic for their first visits to China and India.
In December 1990, Mr. Perlman visited Russia for the second time to participate in a gala performance in Leningrad celebrating the 150th anniversary of Tchaikovsky's birth. This concert, which also featured Yo-Yo Ma, Jessye Norman, and Yuri Temirkanov conducting the Leningrad Philharmonic, was televised live in Europe and later broadcast throughout the world, and is now available on home video (RCA/BMG Classics). In December 1993, Mr. Perlman visited the city of Prague in the Czech Republic to perform in a Dvorák gala concert with Yo-Yo Ma, Frederica von Stade, Rudolf Firkusny and the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Seiji Ozawa. This concert was also televised live with a later worldwide broadcast and was released on CD and home video (Sony Classical) in 1994.
Itzhak Perlman has been honored with four Emmy Awards, most recently for the PBS documentary Fiddling for the Future, a film about the Perlman Summer Music Program and his work as a teacher and conductor in that program. His previous Emmy Award recognized his dedication to Klezmer music, as featured in the PBS television special In the Fiddler's House. This Klezmer music program was filmed in Poland in 1995, and later released in home video and audio formats. A highly successful national tour of In the Fiddler's House in the summer of 1996 was followed by a second Klezmer music recording released by EMI: "Live in the Fiddler's House" (from Radio City Music Hall, 1996). Subsequent Klezmer tours have included concerts in Mexico, at the Hollywood Bowl, and at major North American summer festivals.
Mr. Perlman's recordings regularly appear on the best-seller charts and have won fifteen Grammy Awards. His most recent Grammy was awarded in 1996 for The American Album, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Recent releases include Cinema Serenade and Cinema Serenade 2. Both albums feature popular hits from movies, with John Williams conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestra (Sony). There is also a recording of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and the Brahms Double Concerto with Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony, (Teldec) and a la Carte, a recording of short violin pieces with orchestra (EMI). Throughout 1995 EMI honored Mr. Perlman on the occasion of his 50th birthday as "Artist of the Year" with the release of a 21 disc set entitled The Itzhak Perlman Collection. The release of this set coincided with The Definitive Perlman Experience festival in London in which Mr. Perlman performed seven concertos in four concerts at the Royal Festival Hall.
During the past two years Mr. Perlman has also appeared on the conductor's podium and through this medium he is further delighting his audiences. He has been appointed the Principal Guest Conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in the USA, a position he will take up in the 2001 / 2002 season. He has also appeared as conductor / soloist with the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Toronto, National, Houston and Pittsburgh symphonies, at the Ravinia and OK Mozart festivals and with the Israel Philharmonic. In Europe, he has conducted the English Chamber Orchestra, London Philharmonic and Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia. Forthcoming conducting engagements in Europe include the London Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw and Berlin Philharmonic. These are alongside recital performances in London, Brussels and in Switzerland.
Numerous publications and institutions have paid tribute to Itzhak Perlman for the unique place he occupies in the artistic and humanitarian fabric of our times. Newsweek magazine featured him with a cover story in April of 1980, and in 1981 Musical America pictured him as Musician of the Year on the cover of its Directory of Music and Musicians. Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Roosevelt, Yeshiva and Hebrew universities are among the institutions which have awarded him honorary degrees. President Reagan honored Mr. Perlman with a "Medal of Liberty" in 1986.
On television, Mr. Perlman has entertained and enlightened millions of viewers of all ages on shows as diverse as The Late Show with David Letterman, Sesame Street, the Tonight show, the Grammy awards telecasts and several Live From Lincoln Center broadcasts. In 1992, the PBS documentary of his historic trip to the Soviet Union with the Israel Philharmonic, entitled Perlman in Russia (Angel/EMI video), was honored with an Emmy award as best music documentary. In July of 1994, Mr. Perlman was seen by millions of viewers when he hosted the U.S. broadcast of the Three Tenors, Encore! live from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
One of Mr. Perlman's proudest achievements was his collaboration with film score composer John Williams in Steven Spielberg's Academy Award winning film Schindler's List in which he performed the violin solos.
His presence on stage, on camera and in personal appearances of all kinds speaks eloquently on behalf of the handicapped and disabled, and his devotion to their cause is an integral part of his life.