In March 2011, Itzhak Perlman turned up at a hastily arranged concert in the Saban Theatre, re-exploring his Jewish roots in tandem with the Klezmer Conservatory Band and a force of nature named Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot. At the time, they hoped to take the show on the road, as well as make a recording.
And so they have. A sampling of their repertoire, “Eternal Echoes,” was issued on a Sony CD a year ago this month. And back to Los Angeles they came Tuesday night, this time to the big concrete outdoors of Hollywood Bowl.
Actually, “Eternal Echoes” might have fit more comfortably on the World Festival series than on a Classical Tuesday, but the Bowl was probably setting its sights upon Perlman’s ample classical constituency – which showed up 9,519 strong.
What they got was a heaping serving of jumping Jewish dances from Eastern Europe and solemn music in the cantorial tradition, mostly arranged by Klezmer Conservatory Band pianist/leader Hankus Netsky. A few members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic led by Russell Ger joined in on several numbers, but the sound of the ensemble was defined by Netsky’s band, with the jangling cimbalom-like colors of the tsimbl (a small Romanian hammer dulcimer) and Ilene Stahl’s wild clarinet on the loose.
The difference between the Saban and Bowl concerts was mainly a matter of scale, as well as greater polish on the act. Helfgot’s direct, penetrating, belt-it-out tenor, topped with ample reverberation, seemed more at home in the vast stretches of the Bowl than it did indoors.
Perlman needed a bit of time to warm up to optimum level on the violin, but once he got there, he again sounded rejuvenated, applying his still-formidable classical technique to the micro-twists and turns of the Jewish musical lines. Netsky and Perlman now have a smooth stream of teasing banter and running gags going between numbers, with Netsky serving as straight man.
The Bowl crowd, however, proved to be a bit more difficult to rouse. Many clapped along on cue whenever the tempos picked up and the rhythms kicked in, but in a more genteel way than at the Saban.