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Itzhak Perlman: Virtuoso Violinist

with Vladimir Ashkenazy, Pinchas Zukerman, Lynn Harrell, Toby Perlman, Bruno Canino, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Chou Liang Lin, Lawrence Foster etc

Allegro Films A 08CN D [2 ¾ hours - release 3 March 2008]

This DVD, to be released in March, is essentially a worth-while historical document of the 1970s, based upon one of a series of successful and well remembered TV programmes. It treats quite perfunctorily success against heavy odds; Perlman was blessed with wise parents who supported his childhood desire to be a professional violinist and helped him get on with his life without fuss about his physical handicap.

In later life his succesful marriage and family life have been central, and determined what engagements away from home he was prepared to accept.

Itzhak Perlman grew up with an outgoing personality and apparently without emotional hangups; he makes for a fine interviewee and raconteur.

Nupen's title is apt; virtuosity dominates Perlman's playing and he is untroubled by the growing movement for H.I.P (historically informed performance practice); he plays everything with intensity and vibrato, and teaches the same. Some people don't like this (Google brings up a violinists blog in which contributors write of his 'sameness' in different musics, some even finding him 'bland').

This first of the Nupen transfers, and others in the series to follow, will sell well, but the marketing is not helpful for those many collectors for whom history is important. The only date to be found in the box and booklet is March 2008. On screen, you can spot from a fleetingly shown poster outside the Royal Opera House that a recital there took place in 1977; the highly efficient traversals of two Bach Partitas are dated in style and show the announcer sitting on stage at a table draped in red and emblazoned BBC at St John's Smith Square, also 1977, in the days when government staff from Whitehall used to go there in their lunchtimes, before the BBC moved the Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts to Wigmore Hall, more convenient for West End shoppers)...

Navigation can be a little confusing; you start with lengthy trailers and if you're not careful they can come round twice; from the Extras I selected “Jacqueline du Pré Remembered”, from a recently recorded interview with Perlman, where he discussed in quite intimate terms his friendship and admitration for Jaqui and her "larger than life", "uncensored" personality. That and her 'abandoned' approach to performing (she wouldn't have Barenboim saying she was playing "wrong") made for her iconic status; she needed to be seen as well as heard and "feeling was all". Next we chose to watch the bit about the three of them with Zukerman and Mehta famously recording the Trout quintet, with clips which brought together those glamorous young luminaries of the period, who are still prominent before the public; but that track led straight on to the J. du P. interview all over again...

Some of the hype is over the top; we are reminded that [Nupen's] excellence "has rarely been equalled and never excelled" - and do we really need the Head of Music and Arts at BBCTV and the Controller of BBC2 to tell us that "the general view of people in the television service generally" is that the film is one of the finest for years. And there is also Allegro Molto, a montage of sequences from past Allegro films...

A consideration for purchasers will be whether they would be likely to return to this compilation after viewing it once?

Peter Grahame Woolf