“The only thing I can’t … teach is whether a musician can get through to his guts. They have to find that themselves, and some of them never do.” So says the seventy-two year-old-world-renowned violinist, Itzhak Perlman, the subject of Chernick Alison’s documentary (2018). Such discoveries usually occur in the wake of intense suffering.

I suggest that Itzhak’s came to him during his formative years. His Polish parents fled their country in advance of Hitler’s ghettoization. Their purchase of a toy violin at a Tel Aviv thrift shop for their three-and-a-half-year only son, too small to hold a real one, evidenced their hardscrabble existence. And six months later, their shock as they dealt with Itzhak’s polio-ravaged body.

Multi-faceted interventions followed: medications and special diets to restore what was left of Itzhak’s health, passive range of motion exercises for his paralyzed legs, constant adjustment of his shoes and the heavy leg braces and crutches to accommodate his growth. When thirteen, his prodigious talent brought him and his parents to Manhattan where he began his studies at the Julliard School of Music—again, leaving behind everything familiar.

More studies solidified Itzhak’s violin playing with his gut, the sacred core of his being. Always listening, he still approaches each note with reverence, as if taking direction as to when to enter it, how long to stay, and when to leave it behind. His facial expression reflects this passionate embrace. Such playing informs Itzhak’s uniqueness and still crowds concert halls around the world.

Alison’s short documentary, Itzhak, offers clues to Itzhak’s genius—A must see.

 

 

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