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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 is treasured by audiences throughout the world who respond not only to his remarkable artistry, but also to his irrepressible joy for making music.
Having performed with every major orchestra and at venerable concert halls around the globe, Itzhak Perlman was granted a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003 by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in celebration of his distinguished achievements and contributions to the cultural and educational life of the United States. He has performed multiple times at the White House, most recently in 2012 at the invitation of President Barack Obama and Mrs. Obama, for Israeli President and Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Shimon Peres; and at a State Dinner in 2007, hosted by President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush, for Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. In 2009, Mr. Perlman was honored to take part in the Inauguration of President Obama, premiering a piece written for the occasion by John Williams alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma, clarinetist Anthony McGill and pianist Gabriela Montero, for an audience of nearly 40 million television viewers in the United States and millions more throughout the world.
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 to national recognition with an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958. Following his studies at the Juilliard School with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay, he won the prestigious Leventritt Competition in 1964, which led to a burgeoning worldwide career. Since then, Itzhak Perlman has established himself as a cultural icon and household name in classical music.
Mr. Perlman has further delighted audiences through his frequent appearances on the conductor’s podium. He has performed as conductor with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Symphony, National Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the symphony orchestras of Dallas, Houston, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Montreal and Toronto, as well as at the Ravinia and Tanglewood festivals. He was Music Advisor of the St. Louis Symphony from 2002 to 2004 where he made regular conducting appearances, and he was Principal Guest Conductor of the Detroit Symphony from 2001 to 2005. Internationally, Mr. Perlman has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, and the Israel Philharmonic.
The 2014-15 season takes Mr. Perlman to both new and familiar major centers around the world. In Fall 2014, he performs opening-gala concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel in a tribute to John Williams, with the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Ottawa and Pinchas Zukerman, and with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and Jaap van Zweden. He makes recital appearances in Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, amongst other cities, with pianist and longtime collaborator Rohan De Silva. His conducting appearances include the Israel Philharmonic with Daniiel Trifonov as soloist, Houston Symphony, and Seattle Symphony. Mr. Perlman continues to celebrate the rich tradition of Jewish and klezmer music this season with a 20th-anniversary return of his highly popular In the Fiddler’s House program in a much-anticipated appearance at Carnegie Hall in March 2015.
Further to his engagements as violinist and conductor, Mr. Perlman is increasingly making more speaking appearances. Recent and upcoming engagements including the Salk Institute in San Diego on the centennial anniversary of Dr. Salk’s birth, Orlando at Rollins College, Greensboro at Guilford College, Palm Beach at the Society of the Four Arts and Chicago with the Jewish United Fund.
A major presence in the performing arts on television, Itzhak Perlman has been honored with four Emmy Awards, most recently for the PBS documentary Fiddling for the Future, a film about Mr. Perlman’s work as a teacher and conductor for the Perlman Music Program. In 2004, PBS aired a special entitled Perlman in Shanghai that chronicled a historic and unforgettable visit of the Perlman Music Program to China, featuring interaction between American and Chinese students and culminating in a concert at the Shanghai Grand Theater and a performance with one thousand young violinists, led by Mr. Perlman and broadcast throughout China. His third Emmy Award recognized his dedication to klezmer music, as profiled in the 1995 PBS television special In the Fiddler's House, which was filmed in Poland and featured him performing with four of the world’s finest klezmer bands.
Mr. Perlman has entertained and enlightened millions of TV viewers of all ages on popular shows as diverse as The Late Show with David Letterman, Sesame Street, The Frugal Gourmet, The Tonight Show, and various Grammy Awards telecasts. His PBS appearances have included A Musical Toast and Mozart by the Masters, as well as numerous Live From Lincoln Center broadcasts such as The Juilliard School: Celebrating 100 Years. In 2008, he joined renowned chef Jacques Pépin on Artist’s Table to discuss the relationship between the culinary and musical arts, and lent his voice as the narrator of Visions of Israel for PBS’s acclaimed Visions series. Mr. Perlman hosted the 1994 U.S. broadcast of the Three Tenors, Encore! live from Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. During the 78th Annual Academy Awards in 2006, he performed a live medley from the five film scores nominated in the category of Best Original Score for a worldwide audience in the hundreds of millions. One of Mr. Perlman’s proudest achievements is his collaboration with film composer John Williams in Steven Spielberg’s Academy Award-winning film Schindler’s List, in which he performed the violin solos. He can also be heard as the violin soloist on the soundtrack of Zhang Yimou’s film Hero (music by Tan Dun) and Rob Marshall’s Memoirs of a Geisha (music by John Williams).
In 2008, Itzhak Perlman was honored with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence in the recording arts. His recordings regularly appear on the best-seller charts and have garnered fifteen Grammy Awards. Mr. Perlman’s most recent releases include Eternal Echoes: Songs & Dances for the Soul (Sony), featuring a collaboration with acclaimed cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot in liturgical and traditional Jewish arrangements for chamber orchestra and klezmer musicians; a recording of Mendelssohn Piano Trios (Sony) with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax; and a recording for Deutsche Grammophon with Mr. Perlman conducting the Israel Philharmonic. Other recordings reveal Mr. Perlman’s devotion to education, including Concertos from my Childhood with the Juilliard Orchestra under Lawrence Foster (EMI) and Marita and her Heart’s Desire, composed and conducted by Bruce Adolphe (Telarc). Further recordings over the past decade have included a live recording with pianist Martha Argerich performing Beethoven and Franck Sonatas (EMI); Cinema Serenade featuring popular hits from movies with John Williams conducting (Sony); A la Carte, a recording of short violin pieces with orchestra (EMI) and In the Fiddler’s House, a celebration of klezmer music (EMI) that formed the basis of the PBS television special. In 2004, EMI released The Perlman Edition, a limited-edition 15-CD box set featuring many of his finest EMI recordings as well as newly compiled material, and RCA Red Seal released a CD titled Perlman rediscovered, which includes material recorded in 1965 by a young Itzhak Perlman.
Mr. Perlman has a long association with the Israel Philharmonic and has participated in many groundbreaking tours with this orchestra from his homeland. In 1987, he joined the IPO 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 orchestra for its first visit to the Soviet Union in 1990, and was cheered by audiences in Moscow and Leningrad who thronged to hear his recital and orchestral performances. This visit was captured on a PBS documentary entitled Perlman in Russia, which won an Emmy. In 1994, Mr. Perlman joined the Israel Philharmonic for their first visits to China and India.
Over the past decade, Mr. Perlman has become more actively involved in music education, using this opportunity to encourage gifted young string players. Alongside his wife Toby, his close involvement in the Perlman Music Program has been a particularly rewarding experience, and he has taught full-time at the Program each summer since its founding in 1993. Mr. Perlman currently holds the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Chair at the Juilliard School.
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. Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, Roosevelt, Yeshiva and Hebrew universities are among the institutions that have awarded him honorary degrees. He was awarded an honorary doctorate and a centennial medal on the occasion of Juilliard’s 100th commencement ceremony in May 2005. President Reagan honored Mr. Perlman with a “Medal of Liberty” in 1986, and in December 2000, President Clinton awarded Mr. Perlman the “National Medal of Arts.” His presence on stage, on camera, and in personal appearances of all kinds speaks eloquently on behalf of the disabled, and his devotion to their cause is an integral part of Mr. Perlman’s life.