1958: Itzhak Perlman

Welcome to 70 Faces of Israel. To celebrate 70 years since the establishment of the State of Israel, we’re looking at 70 people whose remarkable stories have changed our country and the world.


Name: Itzhak Perlman

Date of Birth: 31st August 1945, Tel Aviv, British Mandate of Palestine

Claim to Fame: World’s Pre-Eminent Classical Violinist

In 1958… Perlman gave his first international performance


Early Life


Itzhak Perlman

Itzhak Perlman playing violin (source: izthakperlman.com/Akira Kinoshita

The son of Polish immigrants, Itzhak Perlman was born in Tel Aviv. His lifelong passion for music began at age three when he heard a classical performance on the radio. Determined to learn violin, he taught himself on a toy instrument until he could hold a real instrument. As a four-year-old, Perlman contracted polio. As a result of the disease, he uses crutches, leg braces, and an electric scooter for mobility. He sits to play violin.


Eventually, Perlman began studying at the Shulamit Conservatory and the Academy of Music in Tel Aviv. He gave his first recital at just 10 years old! He then moved to the United States and studied at Julliard under top violinist Ivan Galamian.


In 1958, Itzhak Perlman appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. He debuted at Carnegie Hall in 1963, and won the Leventritt Competition for gifted classical musicians in 1964. This catapulted him to musical stardom: Perlman toured, recorded, and made guest appearances across the world.


Perlman played at several highly prestigious events, including tribute concerts and private White House performances. An astonishing lead violinist, he is also an accomplished conductor. Perlman’s performance credits include shows with the Israeli Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, National Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, English Chamber, and London Philharmonic Orchestras, among tens of others.


As well as classic music, Perlman has also recorded jazz, baroque, romantic and klezmer music. He also played the scores for several films and television shows, earning further international acclaim.


Itzhak Perlman Awards and Accolades


Itzhak Perlman (source: cmuse.org)

Perlman is among the world’s most celebrated classical musicians. His awards include 15 Grammy Awards, four Emmy Awards, and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Additionally, President Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts, and President Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He received Israel’s prestigious Genesis Prize from Bibi Netanyahu in 2016.


Perlman is a highly sought-after teacher who educated promising young musicians whenever he is not touring. He spends summers teaching one-on-one at the Perlman Music Program in New York. He also holds a chair at the Julliard School.


Perlman lives in New York with his wife. They have five children. Perlman’s primary instrument is the Soil Stradivarius violin, a prized instruments dating to 1714.


Watch Perlman conduct and play Spring from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra below:



Previously: 1957: Moshe Wallach

Up Next: 1959: Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog