He came on stage with those arm supports that aren’t quite crutches but definitely more than walking sticks. The audience watched in half-awe, half-pity as he slowly staggered across the stage. The concertmaster trailed behind holding his own violin in one hand and nervously clutching Perlman’s Stradivarius in the other. Finally reaching centre stage, Perlman laid his walking sticks aside, stepped onto the platform, loosened his bow tie, rescued his violin, smiled at the conductor, and started playing. His posture was horrible. His shoulders slouched and his left hand flattened on the fingerboard as if permanently glued there. His hair was frazzled and entirely uncombed. And for the duration of the piece he never, ever looked at the conductor or any of the orchestra for that matter. In appearance, he was the worst soloist you could imagine.
But just listen to him play. It was as if he was playing for himself, or perhaps a secret lover, injecting so much emotion but all within his own world. His eyes were closed for most of it leaving the audience free to stare and stare and – in my case – drool. (Even members of the orchestra were ignoring their music to gaze in awe.) The intonation was perfect (as was to be expected) but so were his dynamics and double-stops and impossibly high shifts. It was surreal.
If you haven’t heard of him, I’ll give you a taste. This is the piece I’m playing for my RCM exam this year. (And I have great confidence that it will sound nowhere near as good as this version.) I digress.
Now, prepare to be amazed.