Five Great Perlman Recordings

This weekend, Itzhak Perlman will join the Richmond Symphony for our season-opening Masterworks program. The Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is on the program for this already-sold-out concert. And unlike this recent BNY Mellon TV commercial, it’s safe to assume Rhea Perlman will not be attempting to fill in. (That’s the introduction of the Mendelssohn in the background of the commercial).

Perlman is one of a handful of musicians who has achieved genuine celebrity status in the wider culture. In 1958, at the age of 13, he appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Later, he showed up frequently on television, including appearances on Live from Lincoln Center and Sesame Street. His affable demeanor led to numerous interviews, including this 1987 New York Times profile which highlighted his passion for cooking. You heard him bringing John Williams’ soulful score to life on the soundtrack of the 1993 film, Schindler’s List.

Recently, I was surprised to discover that many of my students had never heard of Perlman. Younger generations have grown up in a fragmented media environment and what remains of mass corporate media seems to shun the performing arts. But Perlman’s contribution to violin playing is indisputable. A student of Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay at Juilliard, he synthesized traditions of the past while embracing a modern, perhaps less personal style. Still, there are distinctive trademarks of Perlman’s playing. His thick, overtone-rich sound is unmistakable. He frequently plays close to the violin’s bridge, resulting in a growling, roaring intensity. In his book, Great Masters of the Violin, Boris Schwarz wrote,

Itzhak Perlman represents the perfect synthesis of artist and person: he plays as he is- warm, communicative, radiant, full of vitality and joy. His interpretations reveal thoughtfulness without brooding and an inner glow that communicates the innermost spirit of music to his listeners. Music is a natural way of self-expression for him- he speaks clearly and without affectation. But behind that apparent ease and simplicity there is much disciplined work, as well as a unique talent for music and a particular affinity for the violin.

Perlman’s newest recording will be released on September 30th. He is joined by pianist Martha Argerich for music of Bach, Brahms, and Schumann. Here are five other great Perlman recordings:

Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante

This 1986 Deutsche Grammophon recording of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat, K. 364 remains one of my favorites. Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman (playing viola) are accompanied by Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Opera with its drama and sense of character is often present in Mozart’s instrumental music. Here, there is an especially powerful and magical sense of dialogue:


As a teenager, I spent many hours listening to Perlman’s Encores album with pianist Samuel Sanders. The recording includes a soulful performance of Pablo De Sarasate’s Romanza Andaluza Op. 22 No. 1 and a sparkling ZapateadoThe opening track is Fritz Kreisler’s Preludium and Allegro:

Concertos by Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Ben Haim

This 1993 recording with Zubin Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic features two seldom-heard twentieth century works: the Violin Concerto No. 2, “The Prophets” by Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and the Violin Concerto of Paul Ben-Haim. Here is the complete disc, beginning with radiant orchestral colors of the Castelnuovo-Tedesco:

Brahms Violin Sonatas

Perlman recorded Johannes Brahms’ three Violin Sonatas with the pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy in 1985. Later, he released a live concert recording of the same works with Daniel Barenboim. It’s interesting to compare the slight tempo and stylistic differences between the two recordings. Both are excellent. Here is the First Sonata from the Ashkenazy recording:

Brahms Violin Concerto

Here is Perlman’s great 1986 recording of the Brahms Violin Concerto with Carlo Maria Giulini and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. It’s a performance which is both intensely powerful and noble:


  • Mozart: Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat, K. 364, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Zubin Mehta iTunes
  • Encores: Itzhak Perlman and Samuel Sanders Amazon
  • Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Ben-Haim: Violin Concertos, Itzhak Perlman, Israel Philharmonic, Zubin Mehta iTunes
  • Brahms: Violin Sonatas, Itzhak Perlman and Vladimir Ashkenazy iTunes
  • Brahms Violin Concerto, Itzhak Perlman, Chicago Symphony, Carlo Maria Giulini iTunes

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

2 thoughts on “Five Great Perlman Recordings”

  1. Another excellent recording of Perlman’s performance I would like to recommend is the four Vivaldi’s violin concerti that he also directs Israel PO from EMI. The performance was of non-HIP modern approach with good sound quality. There is another admirable live recording made on the auspicious occasion of 60th anniversary of the great violinist Isaac Stern in which Perlman was one of the several soloists. The CD name is Isaac Stern Vivaldi Gala form CBS. Apart from Perlman and Stern, there was also another violinist Zukerman and the flutist Rampal performing with Israel PO conducted by Zubin Metha. All 4 Vivaldi’s concerti are quite impressively and vividly rendered and reflects the high spirit of the celebration without any reservation. Music making at its most cherishable and satisfying.

  2. Let me add one last Perlman’s best performance that I have but unforgiveably forgot to mention in my last post. It’s his recording of Beethoven’s Spring and Kreutzer violin sonatas with Ashkenazy at the piano from Decca. There is a box set of complete sonatas but I have only this one CD and it is the best that listeners who admire these two works will cherish. Perlman’s performance is very expressive: bright but graceful in Spring, burning and passionate in Kretuzer. Tempo choice is the most proper in bringing out contrast of moods. The sound is also captured with high clarity and presence. The other two CDs I have of these same works (Zukerman + Barenboim from EMI and Menuhin + Kemff from DG) are not as good: too fast in Spring and too slow in Kretuzer. They also lack proper contrast of tempo and the sound is generally good but not enough presence and clarity.


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