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Itzhak Perlman: The Life and Career of an Accomplished Violinist


Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman is a renowned Israeli-American violinist. He is considered one of the greatest violinists in the world. His contributions have been recognized both within the classical music world and beyond.

However, Perlman is much more than just a solo artist. He has performed with several other musicians. He played jazz and klezmer, was a soloist in film scores, and even took up conducting.

With an illustrious career spanning over five decades, Perlman has achieved many accolades. He has also won several awards at the highest level. These include Grammy Awards and Emmy Awards.

Also, he had performed at high-profile events across the nation. Presidential inaugurations and state dinners are two examples.

Itzhak Perlman’s Early Life

Perlman was born on August 31, 1945, in Tel Aviv, Israel, to Jewish parents, Chaim and Shoshana Perlman.

His parents independently emigrated from Poland to British Mandate Palestine, now Israel, in the mid-1930s.

When he was four years old, Perlman contracted polio. This ailment left him with a disability that required leg braces and crutches to walk.

Perlman faced physical challenges throughout his life.

However, he still pursued his passion and became one of the greatest violinists in the world.

Journey into Music

Itzhak Perlman as a teenager

Itzhak Perlman developed a passion for music at a young age. This happened after hearing a classical music performance on the radio.

Perlman’s love for the violin began at the age of three, but he could not start earlier.

The Ron Shulamit Conservatory denied admission to the iconic violinist. The reason is that he is too small to hold a violin.

However, this did not deter him, and he taught himself how to play using a toy fiddle. Eventually, he studied with Rivka Goldgart at the Ron Shulamit Conservatory. He also studied at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv which is now the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music. At the conservatory, he gave his first recital at age 10.

He later moved to the United States at the age of 13 to study at the Juilliard School.

Specifically, he studied with the renowned violin teacher Ivan Galamian and his assistant Dorothy DeLay.

Itzhak Perlman’s Music Career

Itzhak Perlman playing Beethoven: Violin Concerto (with Daniel Barenboim, Berliner Philharmoniker) at a live concert
Itzhak Perlman at a live concert with Berliner Philharmoniker

Perlman’s career took off in the 1970s. The time he began performing and recording with major orchestras and conductors around the world.

Over the course of his career, Perlman has performed with many of the world’s most renowned orchestras.

These include, but are not limited to, the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Israel Philharmonic.

He has also collaborated with many leading musicians and conductors around the world. Among them are Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, and Zubin Mehta.

Besides being a performer, Perlman has also been active as a teacher. He is also a mentor to young musicians.

The violin virtuoso has served as a faculty member at the Juilliard School. He also served in the same capacity at the Perlman Music Program and the Manhattan School of Music as well.

Besides, Itzhak Perlman has received numerous honors and awards throughout his career. These include the Grammy Awards and the Kennedy Center Honour. He has also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Moreover, Perlman has been recognized for his contributions to music education.

His advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities has also earned him recognition.

Today, Perlman remains an active performer. He continues to inspire audiences around the world. This he does with his virtuosic performances and dedication to musical excellence.

Performance at Different Levels

Perlman’s first appearance on national television was on “The Ed Sullivan Show” twice in 1958.

He appeared again in 1964, where he performed pieces such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,”. More pieces featured are “Polonaise Brillante” by Wieniawski. The Violin Concerto by Mendelssohn was also included.

He soon began touring cities in the United States and Canada as a soloist with orchestras. The tour was sponsored by the Zionist Organization of America.

In no time, Perlman has quickly established himself as a leading virtuoso soloist.

In 1963, he made his debut at Carnegie Hall, performing Wieniawski’s “Violin Concerto No. 1” in F sharp minor.

Thereafter, Perlman has toured worldwide as a soloist. One of his notable performances included appearances at the Salzburg Festival with the Vienna Philharmonic in 1972. His debut with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1968 is also a masterpiece.

Perlman has had an extensive recording and performance career. He has also made appearances on various television shows. For instance, TV shows like “The Tonight Show and Sesame Street”.

He has also performed at several White House functions.

Specifically, shows like The Tonight Show and Sesame Street. He has also played at a few White House functions.

Itzhak Perlman Diversify Repertoire

Perlman has never been one to shy away from new challenges. He has expanded his repertoire beyond classical music, delving into jazz and klezmer.

He has even recorded an album with jazz pianist Oscar Peterson.

Perlman has also been a soloist in several film scores. He is most famous for playing the theme of the 1993 film Schindler’s List by John Williams. This film later won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

He has also appeared in movies, including Disney’s Fantasia 2000. There, he introduced the segment “Pines of Rome” along with comedian Steve Martin.

Perlman performed during a classical music show called The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. WQXR in New York City produced this show in 2015.

It was also revealed that he performed the uncredited violin solo on the 1989 Billy Joel song “The Downeaster Alexa.”

Itzhak Perlman Collaborations with Other Musicians

Perlman is primarily known as a solo artist. However, he has collaborated with several other musicians throughout his career.

Some of his most notable collaborations include performances with Yo-Yo Ma.

Moreover, he has performed in collaboration with Pinchas Zukerman and also Jessye Norman.

He has also collaborated with Isaac Stern, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Yuri Temirkanov.

In December 1990, Perlman joined forces with these musicians to perform. They performed together at the 150th anniversary celebration of Tchaikovsky in Leningrad, Russia.

Selected Performances by Itzhak Perlman

Over the years, Perlman has performed at some of the most prestigious venues in the world.

One of his most notable performances was at the state dinner attended by Queen Elizabeth II on May 7, 2007. The event took place in the East Room at the White House.

Perlman was also part of a quartet that played at the 2009 inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama.

At the event, he performed John Williams’ “Air and Simple Gifts” along with Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero, and Anthony McGill.

Perlman also made an appearance in the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha as the violin soloist.

Violin Play by Itzhak Perlman

Perlman possessed and performed with three of the most exceptional stringed instruments ever created by renowned violin makers.
Indeed, Perlman’s repertoire of violins is nothing short of extraordinary. Among them is the Soil Stradivarius violin of 1714. The violin once belonged to Yehudi Menuhin. It is also regarded as one of the finest violins crafted during Stradivari’s “golden period”.
Perlman’s collection of violins is further enhanced by the addition of the Guarneri del Gesù 1743 “Sauret.”
The Carlo Bergonzi 1740 “ex-Kreisler” is another exemptional violin in Perlman’s repertoire.
However, the 1714 Soil Stradivarius is the primary violin of the Grammy Award-winning violin virtuoso.

Itzhak Perlman Discography

Perlman record: Image source – ebay

Itzhak Perlman is a legendary violinist who has been performing for audiences around the world for decades. He has a discography spanning over three decades. Indeed, his works are a testament to his skill, passion, and dedication to the craft. In this session, we will look at some of his most notable works, starting from Tradition to the Perlman sound.

Tradition, 1987

One of Itzhak Perlman’s earliest works was Tradition, released in 1987. This album features a collection of traditional Jewish songs. This includes “Tum Balalaika” and “Hava Nagila”. The album showcases Perlman’s incredible ability to evoke emotion. It also brings a sense of nostalgia to his music.

Duos, 1987

Another notable work is “Duos,” which he released in 1987. This album features Perlman performing with several different artists. The artists include Pinchas Zukerman, Isaac Stern, and Lynn Harrell.
This album highlights Perlman’s ability to collaborate with other musicians. And with the collaboration, create something truly beautiful.

Vivaldi, 1992 

In 1992, Perlman released Vivaldi: The Four Seasons and Three Violin Concertos.
This includes his masterful performance of the classic Vivaldi piece. This album showcases Perlman’s virtuosity and technical skill.
Of course, he seamlessly moves through the challenging passages of the composition.

Dvořák in Prague, 1994

Dvořák in Prague: A Celebration was released in 1994. It is a live recording of a concert. In the concert, Perlman performed with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra.
This album captures the energy and excitement of a live performance. It also showcases Perlman’s incredible ability to connect with his audience.

The American Album, 1995

One of Perlman’s most popular works is The American Album, released in 1995. This album includes a collection of classic American songs, such as “Over the Rainbow” and “Shenandoah”. Perlman’s performance brings a new level of emotion and beauty to these beloved songs.

In the Fiddler’s House, 1995

In the Fiddler’s House, released in 1995, is a tribute to Perlman’s Jewish heritage. This album features a collection of traditional Jewish songs. Perlman and a few other talented musicians performed it.

Holiday Tradition, 1998

He released the album Holiday Tradition in 1998. It is a collection of classic holiday songs, including “Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls”. Perlman’s performance on this album is both joyful and poignant. He captured the spirit of the holiday season.

Concertos from My Childhood, 1999

The 1999 album Concertos from My Childhood is a tribute to the music that inspired Perlman as a child. The album includes performances of classic works by composers such as Mozart and Beethoven.

The Essential Itzhak Perlman, 2019

In 2009, Sony Classical released The Essential Itzhak Perlman. This collection comprises Perlman’s most notable works.
The Essential Itzhak Perlman Album is a testament to Perlman’s incredible talent. It showcases his legacy as one of the greatest violinists of all time.

Eternal Echoes, 2012

Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul was released in 2012. This album is a collaboration between Perlman and cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. The album features a collection of traditional Jewish songs performed with a modern twist.

Violin Sonatas, 2015

Another work from Perlman is Violin Sonatas, which he released in 2015. It is a collection of works for violin and piano, performed by Perlman and pianist Emanuel Ax.
This album showcases his ability to establish a feeling of intimacy and connection with his listeners. Through this album, he creates a personal and emotional experience for his audience.

The Perlman Sound, 2015

The Perlman Sound was released in 2015 and is a tribute to Perlman’s unique sound and style. This album includes a collection of Perlman’s most popular works.
It showcases his incredible ability to connect with his audience and evoke emotion through his music.


Perlman has also collaborated with some of the greatest musicians of his time. These include pianist Oscar Peterson and conductor Andre Previn.
His collaborations with other musicians have resulted in some truly exceptional recordings.
With Peterson, he released “Side by Side” in 1994, which features a mix of jazz and classical music.
One of his collaborations with Previn is “The Easy Winners” (1975). He also collaborates with Previn to record “A Different Kind of Blues” (1980) and “It’s a Breeze” (1981).

Overall, Itzhak Perlman’s discography is a testament to his incredible talent. It was about a violinist and his dedication to music.
The violin virtuoso has covered a wide range of genres and styles throughout his career.
From traditional classical works to modern interpretations of popular songs, Perlman has made his mark in the music world.
Obviously, his legacy as one of the greatest violinists of all time is secure.

Itzhak Perlman Honours and Awards

Itzhak Perlman is one of the most acclaimed violinists in the world. The Grammy master has won numerous awards throughout his illustrious career.
Perlman’s string of accolades began in 1964. That year, he won the prestigious Leventritt Competition.
Since then, he has won several accolades and a staggering number of Grammy Awards, with 16 to his name.
Perlman’s honors and awards also include a Kennedy Center honor in 2003.

He was also honored with an Emmy Award for Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts for Perlman in Russia in 1992.

In his honour he received the Golden Plate Award from the American Academy of Achievement in 2005.

Moreover, Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and Obama recognized him.
He received the Medal of Liberty in 1986 and the National Medal of Arts in 2000. He was also a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015.
Perlman was also awarded the Genesis Prize by the Prime Minister of Israel in 2016. Moreover, he was the subject of the 2017 documentary Itzhak.

Grammy’s Award

His first Grammy came in 1977 for Best Instrumental Soloist’s Performance (with orchestra). He won this Grammy for his recording of Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

He followed that up the following year by winning two Grammys.
The first one was for the Best Chamber Music Performance. His recording of Beethoven’s Sonatas for Violin and Piano (with Vladimir Ashkenazy) won.
The second one is for the Best Classical Album for Brahms’ Concerto for Violin in D.

Perlman’s Grammy streak continued through the 1980s and into the 1990s.
During this period, he wins the Award for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance (without orchestra). The award he won for The Spanish Album
He also wins the prize for the Best Chamber Music Performance. This is for Music for Two Violins (with Pinchas Zukerman).

Moreover, he won Best Instrumental Soloist’s Performance (with orchestra). This is for Brahms Violin and Cello Concerto in A Minor (with Mstislav Rostropovich).

In 1981, he won two another two Grammys Award. The first one is for the Best Instrumental Soloist’s Performance (with orchestra).
This he won for the Isaac Stern 60th Anniversary Celebration (with Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman).

He also won another Grammy for “Best Chamber Music Performance.” The award is for Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A Minor (with Lynn Harrell and Vladimir Ashkenazy).

Perlman’s talent and contributions to the world of classical music have been widely recognized. Most importantly, he remains a beloved figure in the industry.

Itzhak Perlman Personal Life and Legacy

Itzhak Perlman playing violin

Perlman has been married to Toby Perlman, a violinist and conductor, since 1967.

The couple has five children, one of whom, Navah Perlman, is also a concert pianist.

They founded the Perlman Music Program in 1994. The program provides education and performance opportunities for young musicians. This includes people with disabilities.

The Perlman Music Program includes a summer music school. It also includes a year-long mentorship program for young string players.

Perlman has also been an advocate for disability rights. He has been vocal about the issues of discrimination and lack of accessibility.
Through his actions and words, he strives to promote inclusivity and equality for all.

The iconic musician has performed at numerous benefit concerts for organizations that support people with disabilities.

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is one of the organizations he has supported.

He has also supported the March of Dimes and the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

In addition to his music career and advocacy work, Perlman is also an avid sports fan.

Itzhak Perlman has thrown out the first pitch at several baseball games. This includes, but is not limited to, Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park.

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