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Perlman Thrills Ravinia Audience for 31st Time

Concertgoers less enthusiastic about Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied.

The audience reception to (Song of Lamentations) was as mild as the crowd’s response to rendition of Ludwig von Beethoven’s violin concerto was wild at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s (CSO) performance Thursday at . 

The concert marked milestones for the CSO’s relationships with both Perlman and Mahler. Thursday was the sixth and final Mahler performance scheduled by  in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the composer’s death this year. 

“This concludes our Mahler cycle,” Conlon told the audience before the concert began. “I started six years ago with his first symphony and tonight we’re playing his first work,” he added about the piece first written when the Viennese artist was 20. 

As Perlman took the Ravinia stage for the 31st time since his debut Aug. 4, 1966, the audience rose to its feet for a rousing ovation exceeded only by the reception he received when he finished playing. 

Like a hit Broadway musical, the melodic theme of the concerto is one a person can leave the concert humming. Perlman punctuated the music with the smiles on his face throughout much of the concert as his bow brought Beethoven's music to life before the crowd. 

“It was a master playing a master,” said David Gasper of Lake Bluff. “Beethoven really resonates with me and he’s [Perlman] been the preeminent violinist in the world for the last 50 years.” 

Gasper’s view of Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied was completely different. The piece is a choral scored for orchestra and chorus telling a story based in a pair of Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, according to the Ravinia program notes. 

“The story is fine but the music is too contemporary. Its flow was not natural,” Gasper said. “Growing up, my parents wanted me to like Mahler. I tried to like it."

was another concertgoer who was not thoroughly enthused with Das Klagende Lied. Though not a fan of Mahler, he does like some of the composer’s work.

“It was moody, dark and unpleasant. I’d like it more pepped up,” he said. 

Like Gasper, Fulton had much different view of Beethoven’s concerto. He is a general fan of both the composer’s work and Perlman. 

“It made up for the Mahler,” Fulton said of the concerto. “He [Perlman] lived up to my expectations and I was thrilled. He is an icon like Yo Yo Ma and Lang Lang. They are living legends.” 

While Fulton and Gasper have heard Perlman in the past, teenage cellist Brian Park of West Lafayette, IN, heard the maestro for the first time. His eyes were glued to the musician.

“He was very technical, very expressive, especially in the third movement,” Park said. 

 of Highland Park were two more in the audience who were enthralled with Perlman’s interpretation of Beethoven. They even questioned if some of Perlman’s effort was in the composer’s initial score. 

“He’s very dedicated. He was phenomenal," David Hacker said. 

“I wonder if part of what he [Perlman] played was in the original score. They take some license,” Lynne Hacker said about some musicians. “He plays with such inspiration every time.” 

Marcia Saper of Wilmette was also not thrilled with the Mahler portion. “The orchestra is the Chicago Symphony and it was wonderful as usual,” she said. “This was not one of Mahler’s better pieces.” 

Roger Shiffman of Highland Park was glad he heard Das Klagende Lied. “I liked it,” he said. “The music relaxes me and I get swept up in it.”

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