If you ever want to see an orchestra in Technicolor, sit in a stage box. Sit directly above the cymbals, so when they crash together, you see them fly back apart and catch the lights as the sound rushes at you. The bass drum and the timpanis are alongside. After loving timpanis more than any other percussion since childhood, the rare pound of the bass drum gives you second thoughts. Your third thought is how you can get one for the office. A gong is there too, but it only gets a lone, shimmering touch. Leaving the symphony hall, you have to admit a massive, stage-shaking gong strike wouldn’t have fit the Tchaikovsky.
Jess and I — despite the summer’s weeks of sad music in this blog, we’re still friends — saw Itzhak Perlman and the NSO at the Kennedy Center recently, and we took no pictures of how good the seats were. The usher was sure we youth were going to take illicit cell photos in the hall, and we totally would have if he hadn’t been rightly eyeing us. But the Kennedy Center site captured the view well. Screengrab …
Perlman, admittedly one of the few classical musicians on my shelves, didn’t disappoint. He conducted while playing his famous violin for the first piece (Bach 1, 2, 3) and then led with the baton for the latter two (Mozart 1, 2, 3, 4 and Tchaikovsky 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). He threw himself into both roles, and I loved seeing his face and his arms when he sat facing the players. He lost his grip on the baton at one point but caught it in mid-air without missing a beat. Attending a previous show, even the high-minded and classically attuned Washington Post critic received the same impression, “it offered a lot to enjoy — which, as Perlman seems most healthily to keep in mind, is the whole point of the exercise.”
My last time seeing Perlman was on Sesame Street, a fact that much amused the Kennedy Center box-office operator. I couldn’t remember exactly what Perlman’s performance was on the show until later. He had played with early Telly and joined in the great Put Down the Ducky montage, but neither was what I was looking for. A Muppet Wiki entry and a blogger with a mending pelvis finally led me in the right direction.
A little girl ran to a stage, and Perlman climbed slowly on his crutches. Then they played their violins and talked about the lesson. The video.