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Davis, California

Friday, May 17, 2024

Itzhak Perlman brings wit and brilliance to the Mondavi stage

The renowned violinist joined forces with pianist Rohan De Silva for the center’s first performance of 2023


By SARAH HAN — arts@theaggie.org


On Jan. 14, world-class violinist Itzhak Perlman and distinguished pianist Rohan De Silva performed at Jackson Hall, located in the Mondavi Center on UC Davis’s campus. From Beethoven to John Williams, Perlman and De Silva played phenomenally and entertained the audience throughout the show.

This concert wasn’t Perlman’s first appearance at the Mondavi Center. He first performed in 2003 and has been a regular since.

“We always get a big turnout for him. Tonight, we filled 1,800 seats, so [we] pretty much sold out,” said Don Roth, the executive director of the Mondavi Center. “It’s great to see a high turnout — definitely more than average.”

The performance began with Violin Sonata in D Major, Op. 9, No. 3 by Jean-Marie Leclair. Throughout the piece, Perlman played a consecutive set of double-stops followed by a handful of trills. The “Un poco andante” and “Sarabande: Largo” movements established a sorrowful tone, which contrasted nicely with the “Allegro” and “Tambourin: Presto” movements. 

Minami Kato, a fourth-year philosophy student at UC Davis, offered remarks on Perlman’s performance, particularly noting his skills.

“I just thought the way that he plays is beautiful, [especially with] the dexterity of his hands,” Kato said. “My favorite moment was Leclair’s [violin sonata]. 

Following the Leclair piece, Perlman and De Silva performed Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer.” The piece consisted of three movements: the “Adagio sostenuto — Presto,” “Andante con variazioni” and “Presto.”

The “Adagio Sostenuto” movement highlighted both the violin and piano, with both instruments having solo moments sprinkled throughout. Mimicry, playing in unison and build-ups all brought the piece to life as many people in the audience found themselves moving their heads to the beat of the music. 

The peak of audience engagement, though, was in the third movement, “Presto.” During this movement, Perlman made momentary eye contact with the audience, mostly when he played fast, springy notes.

After the piece by Beethoven, Fantasiesücke, Op. 73 by Robert Schumann was next on the setlist. Interestingly, De Silva closed the lid of the piano before playing; nonetheless, the piece was brilliantly performed, beginning with a melancholic but passionate melody and ending with a rampage of fast, short notes. Perlman also played a fair amount of glissandos, which are continuous glides between two pitches, and are a distinguishing feature of the piece.

The next section of the concert featured additional works not listed on the program. During this time, Perlman talked with the audience, communicating his dry yet witty sense of humor.

“I’m only playing this piece because I like it,” he said. “I made a point to play songs I like, so hopefully you like it.”

The song he was referring to was “From my Homeland” by Bedřich Smetana. Perlman and De Silva played a sweet but prominent melody, and as he played, Perlman made eye contact with the audience here and there, which created an overall proud but humorous tone.

The highlight of the concert was John Williams’s “Schindler’s List.” The song is Perlman’s “go-to piece,” and his extensive experience was evident in his playing. The notes were crystal clear, and Perlman played delicately and so emotionally. Even the bow changes were subtle and meticulously controlled, certainly making this piece an audience favorite.

The concert ended with two additional pieces, including Johannes Brahms’s Hungarian Dance No. 1, or, as Perlman likes to call it, “a piece by ‘Brahm’” since it’s a “single dance.” Following this witty remark, Perlman remained playful while performing, jolting here and there when playing accented notes.

Overall, the performance was lighthearted and engaging. Perlman masterfully balances showing off his capabilities while maintaining a lighthearted environment for the audience to enjoy. De Silva was a respectful accompaniment, allowing Perlman to shine but also displaying his own immense skills.

With Perlman and De Silva kicking off the new year at the Mondavi Center, many other renowned artists are on the way to entertain the Davis and greater Sacramento community.

“Next, we have the Cécile McLorin Salvant Quintet and Emanuel Ax, Leonidas Kavakos, Yo-Yo Ma,” Roth said. You can learn more about upcoming performances at the Mondavi Center’s website


Written by: Sarah Han — arts@theaggie.org