Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman (Hebrew: יצחק פרלמן; born 31 August 1945) is an Israeli-American violinist, conductor, and music teacher. Over the course of his career Perlman has performed worldwide, and throughout the United States, in venues that have included a State Dinner at the White House honoring Queen Elizabeth II, and at the Presidential Inauguration of President Obama.[1] He has conducted the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Westchester Philharmonic. In 2015, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[1] He has been awarded 16 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and four Emmy Awards.[1]

Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman about to play the National Anthem at Citi Field in New York City in 2016
Background information
Native name
יצחק פרלמן
Born (1945-08-31) 31 August 1945
Tel Aviv, British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel)
GenresBaroque, Classical, Romantic, Klezmer
Occupation(s)Violinist, conductor, music teacher
Years active1958–present
LabelsDeutsche Grammophon
EMI Classics
RCA Victor Red Seal

Early life

Perlman was born in 1945 in Tel Aviv, Mandatory Palestine (now Israel). His parents, Chaim and Shoshana Perlman, were Jewish natives of Poland and had independently immigrated to Palestine in the mid-1930s before they met and later married. Perlman contracted polio at age four and has walked using leg braces and crutches since then[2] and plays the violin while seated. As of 2018, he uses crutches or an electric Amigo scooter for mobility.[3]

Perlman first became interested in the violin after hearing a classical music performance on the radio. At the age of three, he was denied admission to the Shulamit Conservatory for being too small to hold a violin.[4] He instead taught himself how to play the instrument using a toy fiddle until he was old enough to study with Rivka Goldgart at the Shulamit Conservatory and at the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv, where he gave his first recital at age 10.[5] He moved to the United States at age 13 to study at the Juilliard School[1] with the violin pedagogue Ivan Galamian and his assistant Dorothy DeLay.[6]



Perlman appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show twice in 1958, and again in 1964, on the same show with the Rolling Stones.[7] He made his debut at Carnegie Hall in 1963 and won the Leventritt Competition in 1964.[1] Soon afterward, he began to tour widely. In addition to an extensive recording and performance career, he has continued to make guest appearances on American television shows such as The Tonight Show and Sesame Street as well as playing at a number of functions at the White House.

Although he has never been billed or marketed as a singer, he sang the role of "Un carceriere" ("a jailer") on a 1981 EMI recording of Puccini's "Tosca" that featured Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo, and Renato Bruson, with James Levine conducting. He had earlier sung the role in an excerpt from the opera on a 1980 Pension Fund Benefit Concert telecast as part of the Live from Lincoln Center series with Luciano Pavarotti as Cavaradossi and Zubin Mehta conducting the New York Philharmonic.

On 5 July 1986, he performed on the New York Philharmonic's tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, which was televised live on ABC Television in the United States.[8] The orchestra, conducted by Zubin Mehta, performed in Central Park.

In 1987, he joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO) for their concerts in Warsaw and Budapest as well as other cities in Eastern bloc countries. He toured with the IPO in the spring of 1990 for its first-ever performance in the Soviet Union, with concerts in Moscow and Leningrad, and toured with the IPO again in 1994, performing in China and India.

In 2015 on a classical music program entitled The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center produced by WQXR in New York City, it was revealed that Perlman performed the uncredited violin solo on the 1989 Billy Joel song The Downeaster Alexa.

While primarily a solo artist, Perlman has performed with a number of other musicians, including Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, Jessye Norman, Isaac Stern, and Yuri Temirkanov at the 150th anniversary celebration of Tchaikovsky in Leningrad in December 1990. He has also performed and recorded with his friend and fellow Israeli violinist Pinchas Zukerman on numerous occasions over the years.

As well as playing and recording the classical music for which he is best known, Perlman has also played jazz, including an album made with jazz pianist Oscar Peterson, and in addition, klezmer. Perlman has been a soloist for a number of film scores such as the theme of the 1993 film Schindler's List by John Williams, which subsequently won an Academy Award for Best Original Score. More recently, he was the violin soloist for the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha along with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Perlman played selections from the musical scores of the movies nominated for "Best Original Score" at the 73rd Academy Awards with Yo-Yo Ma and at the 78th Academy Awards.

Selected performances

Perlman played at the state dinner attended by Queen Elizabeth II on 7 May 2007, in the East Room at the White House.[9]

He performed John Williams's "Air and Simple Gifts" at the 2009 inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama along with Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Gabriela Montero (piano), and Anthony McGill (clarinet). While the quartet did play live, the music played simultaneously over speakers and on television was a recording made two days prior due to concerns over the cold weather damaging the instruments. Perlman was quoted as saying: "It would have been a disaster if we had done it any other way."[10]

He made an appearance in Disney's Fantasia 2000 to introduce the segment Pines of Rome along with Steve Martin.

On 2 November 2018, Perlman reprised the 60th anniversary of his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show as a guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.[11]


In 1975, Perlman accepted a faculty post at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College. In 2003, Mr. Perlman was named the holder of the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation Chair in Violin Studies at the Juilliard School, succeeding his teacher, Dorothy DeLay. He also currently teaches students one-on-one at the Perlman Music Program on Long Island, NY, rarely holding master classes.

The Perlman Music Program

The Perlman music program, founded in 1995 by Perlman's wife, Toby Perlman, and Suki Sandler, started as a summer camp for exceptional string musicians between the ages of 11 and 18.[12] Over time, it expanded to a year-long program. Students have the chance to have Itzhak Perlman himself coach them before they play at venues such as the Sutton Place Synagogue and public schools.[13] By introducing students to each other and requiring them to practice together, the program strives to have musicians who would otherwise practice alone and develop a network of friends and colleagues. Rather than remain isolated, participants in the program find an area where they belong.[14]


At the beginning of the new millennium, Perlman began to conduct.[15] He took the post of principal guest conductor at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He served as music advisor to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra from 2002 to 2004. In November 2007, the Westchester Philharmonic announced the appointment of Perlman as artistic director and principal conductor. His first concert in these roles was on 11 October 2008, in an all-Beethoven program featuring pianist Leon Fleisher performing the Emperor Concerto.


Perlman plays the Soil Stradivarius violin of 1714, formerly owned by Yehudi Menuhin and considered one of the finest violins made during Stradivari's "golden period." Perlman also plays the Guarneri del Gesu 1743 'Sauret'[16] and the Carlo Bergonzi 1740 'ex-Kreisler'.

Personal life

Perlman lives in New York City with his wife, Toby, also a classically trained violinist. They have five children, including Navah Perlman, a concert pianist and chamber musician. Perlman is a distant cousin of the Canadian comic and television personality Howie Mandel.[17] Perlman has synesthesia and was interviewed for Tasting the Universe by Maureen Seaberg, which is about the condition.[18]


  • Tradition (1987)
  • Duos (1987)
  • Vivaldi: The Four Seasons/3 Violin Concertos (1992)
  • The American Album (1995)
  • In the Fiddler's House (1995)
  • Holiday Tradition (1998)
  • Concertos from My Childhood (EMI, 1999)
  • The Essential Itzhak Perlman (Sony Classical, 2009)
  • Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul (Sony Classical, 2012) with Yitzchak Meir Helfgot
  • Violin Sonatas (Universal Music Classics/Deutsche Grammophon, 2015)
  • The Perlman Sound (Warner Classics, 2015)

With Andre Previn

With Oscar Peterson

  • Side by Side (TELARC CD-83341 1994)

Honors and awards


  1. "Itzhak - Itzhak Perlman Biography". American Masters. PBS. 4 October 2018. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  3. Lee, Ji Hyun (26 December 2014). "How They Roll". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 December 2014.
  4. "Israeli Violin Prodigy Admits He Likes Jazz". ProQuest 167374800. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. "Perlman, Itzhak". Oxford Music Online. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  6. "Perlman, Itzhak Biography: Contemporary Musicians". Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  7. Duration: 60 min. "Watch The Ed Sullivan Show Season 12 Episode 8 Itzhak Perlman / Carol Lawrence & Larry Kert / Film: Ed Sullivan Visits Jerusalem". Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  8. "Liberty Receives Classical Salute, Sun Sentinel, July 5, 1986". Archived from the original on 23 February 2015.
  9. "News releases for May 2007" (Press release). The White House. 7 May 2007. Retrieved 4 September 2007.
  10. Quartet pre-recorded Obama music. BBC News (23 January 2009).
  11. Norman Lebrecht (3 November 2018). "60 Years On, Itzhak Perlman Reprises His Ed Sullivan Appearance".
  12. "The Perlman Music Program: Toby's Project Grows and Grows". Strings. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  13. "Perlmans' Proteges: The Perlman Music Program". Strings. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  14. "Perlman Student Stirling Trent". Strings. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  15. "The Daily Gazette – Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 August 2012. Retrieved 16 October 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  17. Brownfield, Paul (21 June 1998). "New Afternoon Arrival". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  18. Seaberg, Maureen (15 March 2011). Tasting the Universe: People Who See Colors in Words and Rainbows in Symphonies. ISBN 9781601636676.
  19. "Newsweek cover story 1980". Archived from the original on September 14, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
  20. "Perlman awards". Archived from the original on September 14, 2002. Retrieved March 25, 2008.
  21. "President Obama Names Recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom". The White House. 16 November 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  22. Phil Helsel – "Obama honoring Spielberg, Streisand and more with medal of freedom," NBC News, 24 November 2015. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  23. "Genesis Prize". Retrieved 7 May 2015.
  24. Verongos, Helen T. (8 March 2018). "Review: 'Itzhak,' the Man and the Musician". The New York Times. Retrieved 15 March 2018.
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