Born on August 31, 1945, in Tel Aviv, Israel; immigrated to the United States, 1958; son of Chaim (a barber) and Shoshana Perlman; married Toby Lynn Friedlander (a violinist), January 5, 1967; children: Noah, Navah, Miriam, Leora, Ariella. Education: Received diploma from Juilliard School of Music. Addresses: Management--IMG Artists, 825 Seventh Ave., 8th Fl., New York, NY 10019.

Itzhak Perlman is one of the most famous and sought-after international violin virtuosos. His warm, lyrical sound, formidable technique and musicianship, and rapport with audiences have led to his superstar status. Perlman has performed with orchestras and in recitals throughout the world, earning record sums. His albums of classical violin pieces consistently top the best-seller charts, and he is widely known to the public from televised performances and talk show appearances. "His talent is utterly limitless," violinist and friend Isaac Stern told Newsweek's Annalyn Swan. "No one comes anywhere near him in what he can physically do with the violin."

Perlman's parents, Chaim and Shoshana, met and married in Israel, to which they had separately emigrated in the 1930s. Shortly after Itzhak was born, his talent became evident. The two and a half-year-old could sing on key opera arias that he heard on the radio, and at age three and a half the toddler asked for a violin, which his parents bought for him at a local thrift store.

Tragedy struck Perlman at age four when he contracted polio myelitis, which permanently paralyzed his legs and necessitated his wearing heavy braces and walking with the aid of crutches. During his lengthy convalescence, Perlman continued to practice the violin, and he later studied with Rivka Goldgart at Schulamit Academy in Tel Aviv. The young boy with perfect pitch made such progress that he was considered a child prodigy. In 1958 he was discovered during a talent search and chosen to represent Israel on the Ed Sullivan Caravan of the Stars during its tour of the United States.

After the tour, Itzhak and his mother moved into an apartment in New York, a difficult move. "It wasn't easy: not speaking the language, leaving childhood friends behind, leaving my father--who joined us a year later. It took six months to get myself attuned and it was depressing in the beginning, but when you are a kid you get used to things very quicky," he related to a reporter for the New York Daily News. The young violinist received his secondary education at home with tutors and enrolled in the preparatory division of New York's Juilliard School of Music. For five years he studied under the renowned teachers Dorothy DeLay and Ivan Galamian and eventually earned a diploma. Remembering that time, DeLay told Swan, "What set Itzhak apart from the beginning was his sheer talent and enormous imagination. Itzhak was on a kind of creative high that has never let up."

Perlman also spent several summers at Meadowmount School of Music in upstate New York, where he met violinist Toby Friedlander, whom he married in 1967. During those years Perlman also helped support his family by playing for Jewish fund-raising dinners. A more auspicious performance, his Carnegie Hall debut, took place on March 5, 1963, with his rendition of Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No. 1. The need to perform as a soloist from a sitting position instead of standing--as is customary--necessitated that Perlman hold the violin in a somewhat unorthodox position, but this has not adversely affected his ability. In fact, his solo career was launched when he won the prestigious Leventritt Competition, with its $1000 cash award and bookings for solo appearances with the New York Philharmonic and other major symphony orchestras.

Since that time Perlman has become one of the most popular instrumentalists in the realm of classical music. His technical command of the violin, superb musicianship and lyrical tone, and showmanship have endeared him to audiences worldwide. Perlman's celebrity status has given him much freedom--financial and artistic. He performs on any of a number of Stradivarius or Guarnieri violins, extremely expensive eighteenth-century violins renowned for their distinctive tonal quality. He also enjoys limiting his concert schedule to approximately 100 performances per year. He schedules concert dates around family events, with ample time to rest between appearances as traveling is especially rigorous when transportation and lodging are often not easily accessible.

Perlman likes to add several new works to his repertoire each year--exclusively pieces that appeal to him--and spend a long but leisurely time preparing them. He delights in searching out unusual works of considerable musical value and has also commissioned new works for the violin. During the 1980s and 1990s, Perlman's recital and concert appearances included those with the Israel Philharmonic in 1987, 1990, and 1994; a four-concert series in London during which he performed the major violin concerto; performances of Beethoven Triple Concerto with Daniel Barenboim, Yo-Yo Ma, and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1995; and concerts with Berlin Staatskapelle and Orchestre de Paris in 1997. Perlman performed as soloist and acted as director of the English Chamber Orchestra in 1997-98 and toured with the group during 1999-2000. Also in 2000, Perlman was named principal guest conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for the 2001-02 season. Perlman's enormous discography includes most of the classical repertoire for violin, for which he has garnered numerous Grammy Awards, as well as forays into folk songs and jazz. Perlman also contributed violin solos to the Schindler's List film soundtrack in 1994.

When not performing or recording, Perlman finds time to share his talents in other ways, such as with the Perlman Music Program. Founded by Perlman and his wife in 1995, the program provides instruction, mentoring, six weeks residency at facilities on Shelter Island, New York, and an annual international study/performance tour for gifted students ages 11 to 18; more than 80 percent of the children who participate in the program are given financial assistance to do so.

Believing that media exposure will attract wider audiences to classical music, Perlman has appeared many times on television--talk shows, news magazines, and children's shows--during which he dispels with his sense of humor the image of classical music as elitist or "stuffy." Some of the programs he has appeared on include The Late Show with David Letterman, Sesame Street, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Grammy Awards telecasts, and Live from Lincoln Center broadcasts. He has used such appearances to speak out on behalf of the handicapped for improved access to public buildings and transportation, and he has supported aid to the handicapped through several hospitals, foundations, and educational programs, even funding a scholarship for musically talented disabled children.

by Jeanne M. Lesinski

Itzhak Perlman's Career

Discovered in talent search to find Israeli representative for Ed Sullivan's Caravan of the Stars U.S. tour, 1958; performed for Jewish fund-raising dinners while a student; Carnegie Hall debut, with performance of Wieniawski's Violin Concerto No.1, March 5, 1963; secured bookings as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic and other major orchestras after winning the Leventritt Award, 1964; continued appearances with world-renown musicians and orchestras, 1970s-; contributed violin solos to the Schindler's List film soundtrack, 1994; founded the Perlman Music Program (with Toby Perlman), 1995.

Itzhak Perlman's Awards

Grammy Awards, Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1977; Best Chamber Music Performance (with Vladimir Ashkenazy), 1978; Best Classical Album (with others), 1978; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1980; Best Chamber Music Performance (with others), 1980; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (without Orchestra), 1980; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1980; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1981; Best Chamber Music Performance (with others), 1981; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1982; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1987; Best Chamber Music Performance, Instrumental or Vocal (with others), 1987; Best Chamber Music or Other Small Ensemble Performance (with Daniel Barenboim), 1990; Best Classical Performance--Instrumental Soloist or Soloists (with Orchestra), 1990; Best Instrumental Soloist(s) Performance (with Orchestra), 1995; also recipient of four Emmy Awards, Leventritt Award, 1964, and Medal of Liberty, 1986.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

August 5, 2003: Perlman is named to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. Source: New York Times Arts,, August 8, 2003.

December 7, 2003: Perlman received a Kennedy Center Honor. Source:,, December 8, 2003.

Further Reading



Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 13 years ago

i know his grandchildren i go to camp with them his granddaughters name is Laila!

over 14 years ago

he is sooooo amazing

about 15 years ago

Itzhak Perlman is a very intersting man.lots of thing happened in his life he should keep up the good work he has done!