Musicians intrigue me beyond description. They are our access to an alternate universe where countless emotions flow freely on the backs clefs and dancing notes. From thin air, musicians pluck magic that sticks in my brain for days, weeks or a lifetime.
I’ve always wanted to have music, but that simply is not my lot. Words live in me. Music just visits.
Monday I had more than a simple visit; I was treated to a visage. Itzhak Perlman’s face, to be exact.
Last spring my wife asked if I would like a special musical treat for my March birthday. Cecile knows I can’t tell a sonata from a sing-along, but she also knows I love “historical” opportunities. That’s how we ended up with front-row seats for violinist Itzhak Perlman’s scheduled Columbia concert.
A health problem kept the Perlman from playing for my birthday, but the cherubic master finally came to Jesse Hall this week.
I’ve been to concerts of many kinds in many halls. I am often sadly disappointed by classical music performances that seldom seem as good as listening to my own stereo. But this time Itzhak Perlman’s face was no farther from me than if it had been on the television in my living room. That face became the concert for my eyes that his Stradivarius gave to my ears.
Perlman doesn’t play music. He releases it. To watch him tuck his violin beneath his chin and look down the strings is much like watching a pigeon fancier touch the bird to his lips before giving it to the sky.
And when he plays, it is a constant conversation with the score. Some notes he had to coax – furrowing his brow in concentration. Others he welcomed with a big smile. And during a Beethoven sonata, I swear that Perlman seduced the music into the air.
My lasting impression, however, will be of Itzhak Perlman playing Stravinsky’s Suite Italiene. He greeted the piece as an old friend, laughed with it, reminisced with the sernata and danced the jig of friends for the tarantella.
I watched in awe as he cracked open the door to that other place where beautiful sounds eliminated crowds, the exhaustion of touring and even the polio that hobbles Perlman’s legs. He did not read the notes on the stand before him so much as he glanced back to make sure his friends were still following him into the concert hall. His was not the stare of concentration, but the approving gaze of love.
Today I peck at a tuneless keyboard and try to capture some small part of the wonder I experienced last night. I still don’t have music. But at least I’ve come face to face with it.
And that in turn gave me words.