Deseret News – Itzhak Perlman played a sold-out, ‘once in a lifetime’ show in Utah. We watched the rehearsal

by Lottie Elizabeth Johnson

One of the world’s greatest living violinists performing music by one of the world’s greatest living composers

If you need just one example of how the arts are alive and well in Utah, look back to this past Saturday, when the Utah Symphony performed to a full house at Abravanel Hall.

The first part of the concert featured the music of the legendary John Williams, the most Oscar-nominated person alive who has composed the scores to the “Harry Potter,” “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” films, among others. The second half of the symphony’s concert brought a couple of other Williams works to life, including the theme from “Schindler’s List” — with help from renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman, who has 16 Grammys and four Emmys to his name.

One of the world’s greatest living violinists performing music by one of the world’s greatest living composers. While it should come as no surprise that this performance was sold out, it reflects that there is a deep appreciation for the arts in Utah.

The same thing happened three years ago, when Perlman performed at Brigham Young University for the first time in his decadeslong career. It marked one of the fastest-selling concerts in school history, the Deseret News previously reported.

“It’s inspiring to think of all these people who are coming, and more who wanted to come — many, many more who wanted to come,” Kory Katseanes, the conductor of the BYU Philharmonic, told the Deseret News at the time. “To me that says a lot about the health of the arts in Utah and the love of great classical music in Utah. This is a community that knows.”

Although the symphony’s show this past weekend was sold out, the Deseret News did get an inside look at the orchestra’s rehearsal with Perlman.

A rehearsal with Itzhak Perlman

The clothes were more casual, but there was nothing cavalier about the way Perlman approached the music during his only rehearsal with the symphony late Saturday morning.

Sitting at the front of the Abravanel Hall stage, Perlman would get visibly enthusiastic when the music picked up and the symphony musicians behind him played with gusto. At times, he punched his bow in the air to the beat. During slower sections, he would gently sway his bow back and forth.

And then there was his performance of the theme from “Schindler’s List.” Perlman lent his violin to the film’s soundtrack 30 years ago, and three decades later, he plays the piece with just as much emotion. Even in a rehearsal it felt like a full-fledged performance.

It really didn’t matter if the concert hall was empty or full — Perlman was giving it his all.

But in this case, seated four rows from the back of the hall, a handful of people got to witness this 90-minute rehearsal, including a group of students from the Waterford School in Sandy. Although not the best seat in the house, when it comes to Perlman, there’s really no bad seat — his hearty laugh and rich sound reach far.

Perlman’s concert Saturday night capped off a brief performing spree in Utah — he also performed twice at BYU last week. Over the past two decades, the 78-year-old violinist has dedicated much of his career to music education, making his concert appearances more selective.

Who knows when, or if, Perlman will return to Utah. Several comments from those who attended Saturday’s show noted on the symphony’s Facebook page that this was a “once-in-a-lifetime” event they’re not taking for granted.

But the good news is that this was just one performance in a robust season from the Utah Symphony that is bringing in world-class artists from all over. Upcoming concerts include Grammy-nominated pianist Joyce Yang, Broadway star Audra McDonald and trailblazing pianist Awadagin Pratt.

Make no mistake: the arts are alive and well in Utah.