Growing up in Washington, D.C., the son of two musicians and the brother of a violinist, cellist Zuill Bailey has always been fully aware of who violinist Itzhak Perlman was.
But, Bailey noted, Perlman is someone who just about everyone – musician or not – knows no matter where in the world they live.
“He’s one of those superstars,” Bailey said. “There are very few of those.”
“Superstar” is practically an understatement when applied to Perlman. The renowned Israeli musician taught himself to play the violin using a toy fiddle until he was old enough to study at the Shulamit Conservatory and the Academy of Music in his native Tel Aviv.
He gave his first recital at age 10 and moved to America at 13 to study at the Juilliard School.
After his studies, a career that has taken him around the world and back again has followed. He has released 11 albums, including 2015’s “The Perlman Sound,” as well as three with pianist Andre Previn and one with jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. He also teaches and conducts.
TV appearances include “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Sesame Street” and the 73rd and 78th Academy Awards.
Perlman has performed at the White House multiple times including at Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony. Perlman received a Medal of Liberty from President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and the National Medal of Arts from President Bill Clinton in 2000.
In 2015, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Perlman has won 16 Grammys, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and four Emmys.
Over the years, Bailey has developed a friendship with Perlman, which began when the cellist was in college and playing in a piano trio with Perlman’s daughter, acclaimed pianist Navah Perlman, that Perlman coached.
“He’s seen it all, so when he gives advices, they’re not theoretical, they’re applicable to real-life scenarios of what happens in performance,” Bailey said. “Then, of course, we would go see him play, and he would show it.
“He practiced what he preached and was, and is, such an amazing human being that he would always say it in a way that was very wonderful that made you feel better. It was not in a critical way. He was a wonderfully supportive and very inspiring coach.”
As his own career began to take off, Bailey was invited to perform with Perlman. The feeling of sharing the stage and watching “such a historic figure so closely,” Bailey said, was unforgettable.
“It’s completely one of a kind,” he said. “It’s like walking on stage with a supreme rock star. The electricity is beyond comprehension when you walk onstage with someone like that. It’s difficult to put into words.”
And though Perlman could very easily hog the spotlight, Bailey said the violinist makes sure everyone is recognized.
“He’s always looking at the bigger picture and is such a supportive human being and musician,” Bailey said. “Everyone will see that as he walks onstage. He makes the 3,000-seat hall seem like a living room.”
Perlman will turn the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox into a living room on Monday when he performs a sold-out concert with pianist Rohan de Silva. Perlman will share stories from his life and career and perform a number of pieces.
The first half of the program features Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat Major, No. 3, Op. 12 and Edvard Grieg’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major, Op. 13. After intermission, Perlman and de Silva will perform Antonín Dvořák’s Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100.
According to a news release, additional works will be announced from the stage. “He comes to the table with whatever passion projects he’s working on or wants to present,” Bailey said.
“That’s the fun part about it. You can see where a person is and what they want to share. He’s such a beautiful human being based on what I’ve seen of him, and the programs are extremely varied, a lot of personality.”
Bailey, the artistic director of Northwest Bach Fest, always tries to program diverse seasons that “bring the best to the area.” When he learned that Perlman is celebrating his 75th birthday this year, Bailey realized he would be the perfect musician to highlight.
Bailey called the concert a once-in-a-lifetime event and said similar programs he’s attended in the past, whether as a participant or audience member, have stuck with him over the years.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled with what the Northwest Bach Fest is doing for the community and the region,” he said. “The dreams are being realized.
“We’re able to bring literally the world’s greatest artists to the area consistently throughout the entire year, and this is truly a perfect way of celebrating where we are and, of course, our city of Spokane.”