Kleinhans Music Hall took on a Hollywood sheen on Feb. 25, as superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman played movie music with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
And at times, it really felt as if we were in a movie.
Perlman turned Kleinhans Music Hall, good naturedly, into the Itzhak Perlman Show. As JoAnn Falletta and the orchestra looked on laughing, the master took the mic.
After playing "As Time Goes By," he cracked: "This is the national anthem of the musicians' union." The sold-out crowd lost it.
Before beginning the wistful music from "Cinema Paradiso," Perlman told us: "If it doesn't sound like 'Cinema Paradiso,' get used to it. It is 'Cinema Paradiso.'"
Even "Schindler's List," one of the saddest movies of all time, was not immune.
Introducing it, Perlman explained that he had been asked to play the music for the movie soundtrack. With perfect comic timing, he added, "I said, 'Uh ... OK.'"
What a charming evening in the fiddler's house.
This must be an easy night for Perlman. But there's nothing wrong with that. Seeing him so relaxed made the audience kick back, too. His playing was so natural, so unaffected. You were free simply to enjoy.
The score to the remake of "Sabrina" wouldn't be music most of us could call to mind, but listening to Perlman play it, you could see why he chose it. It was sensuous and his bow went gliding over the strings. "Far and Away," another obscure selection on paper, came to life in his hands. This music-- by John Williams, as was much of the music of the night - was fun. Lively, like a jig, it gave us a glimpse of Perlman's real virtuosity. As it neared its ending, it soared into the high treble. Perlman added flourishes that seemed impromptu before winding it up with perfect grace, just as a dancer might.
The tango from "Scent of a Woman," though full of Latin snap and dash, had an old-fashioned lilt that made me think of Fritz Kreisler. "I didn't play this in the movie. They didn't ask me," Perlman jived.
Korngold's music to "The Adventures of Robin Hood," full of unaffected lyricism, was perhaps the loveliest thing we heard all night.
And the funniest thing we heard all night followed. Perlman spoke of Korngold's Violin Concerto, which references some of those soaring Korngold movie themes. He asked Concermaster Dennis Kim, "Do you play the concerto?" Kim, startled, admitted he did not.
"You don't?" Perlman said. The question hung in the air. "Well, you should!"
How about it, Mr. Kim? Maybe for the season after next?
Perlman and the Philharmonic musicians seemed to like and inspire each other. Principal Cellist Roman Mekinulov played a kind of duet with him in "Cinema Paradiso," and other musicians, too, played off him and with him. Falletta gave everyone room and just let the evening flow.
Between selections Perlman had fun with the audience, asking us movie trivia questions. Who played Marian to Errol Flynn's Robin Hood? I wasn't shy, and yelled out "Olivia de Havilland!" I wasn't the only one. Who played Sabrina in the remake? That was tougher, but someone shouted it: Julia Ormond.
All in all, a beautiful and unusual evening, the likes of which we won't probably see again. Unless we can get Perlman to come back with a dozen more movie themes. Can we?
Before Perlman made his entrance, Falletta primed the crowd with three energetic instrumentals. John Williams' Overture to "The Cowboys" sparkled with percussion and pizzazz, like Aaron Copland. Bernstein's Suite from "On the Waterfront" brimmed with percussion and virtuosity. The timing was impeccable. It can't have been easy to pull off.
Rounding out the night was John Williams' zesty take on "Hooray for Hollywood."