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Navah Perlman brings memories of a life in music to Spokane

Navah Perlman will perform Friday as part of the Northwest Bach Festival’s Summerfest. (Courtesy photo)
Navah Perlman will perform Friday as part of the Northwest Bach Festival’s Summerfest. (Courtesy photo)

When Navah Perlman takes the stage Friday at Hamilton Studio as part of the Northwest Bach Festival’s Summerfest, she’ll be doing something different.

Yes, the accomplished concert and chamber pianist will play some of her favorite works by the likes of Robert Schumann, Sergei Prokofiev and Frederic Chopin.

But tying the pieces together will be stories from her life, accompanied by photographs. She calls the show, “Navah Perlman’s Unforgettable Musical Memoirs,” a “classical cabaret.”

“It has little anecdotes from my life, and stories, and then I play, and there are slides in the background,” she said in a recent phone interview. “It gives the audience the music of a piano recital with a narrative and insight into me personally that they wouldn’t otherwise get with a regular concert. People like it because it breaks down that wall between the audience and the performer. It brings me and my life into a different perspective.”

Perlman, 47, made her professional solo debut at 15 at a festival in Massachusetts. It was a notable enough event that it made the pages of People magazine, who commented that “Dad will be on hand.”

Dad, of course, is the legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Lest anyone think Friday’s performance can be boiled down to “My Life With Itzhak,” Perlman is quick to correct that assumption.

“The truth is my story is a little bit about that, but it’s really about a lot of other things,” she said. “It’s one of the surprises in the show. I think people go in thinking they’re going to hear a lot of celebrity name dropping, and actually they get something very different. And that makes me happy too. It’s a much more of an authentic side of who I am.”

The idea for a cabaret style show came at the suggestion of several friends, including Grammy-winning cellist Zuill Bailey, a friend of more than 20 years and artistic director of the Northwest Bach Festival. “He always used to stay to me, ‘You have really interesting stories about your life, your childhood. People would die to know these things,’ ” Perlman said.

Eventually, he forced the issue, when he urged her to get a date for such a performance on the calendar. “Finally, we had a date in the calendar, and I was like, OK, I have to do this now,” she said.

Perlman worked with friends to write a script, to select the classical pieces to perform and to whittle down stories from five decades into an manageable evening. (“I’m 47 years old. I have a lot of stories to tell,” she said with a laugh.)

She premiered the show earlier this year at the Mesa Arts Center in Arizona, where Bailey is artistic director of the Classical Music Inside and Out Series, and played it a few times since.

“I’m really pleased to say the times I played it this past winter, audiences really seemed to enjoy it,” she said. “I’m out of my comfort zone in terms of the format. It’s one thing to just play the piano or to just talk to the audience … but to also be talking about yourself is a very different thing for me.”


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