Great Performances: Rejoice with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot

Great Performances: Rejoice with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 9:00pm

Pictured: Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot

Credit: Thirteen

Legendary violinist Itzhak Perlman and renowned cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot join forces for a musical exploration

They'll perfrom liturgical and traditional works in new arrangements for both chamber orchestra and klezmer settings on Great PerformancesThe program airs Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

The music of Rejoice with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot – with reminiscences by Elie Wiesel, Joel Grey, and Tovah Feldshuh -- showcases the confluences between the violinist's famed classical technique and Helfgot's magnificent voice, and is the result of a mutual admiration society. "It was a dream to someday sing with him," remarks Helfgot. "And now the dream has become real."

For Perlman, the collaboration represents "the completion of a cycle" of accompanying three great voices, Placido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and now Helfgot who serves as Chief Cantor at Manhattan's Park East Synagogue. This represents for him, too, "the fulfillment of a dream." The pair recently collaborated in a couple of show-stopping pieces on the Great Performances 40th Anniversary Celebration.

In Rejoice with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, these two incomparable virtuosos unite for an evening of cantorial masterpieces, Yiddish folk and theater tunes, Hassidic melodies, and klezmer instrumentals.

With Dr. Hankus Netsky, who teaches at the New England Conservatory in Boston, at the piano, the Klezmer Conservatory Band which he founded, and the Rejoice Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Russell Ger, Perlman and Helfgot run through a program of songs that are alternately joyful and intensely moving, but the latter mood nearly always segueing into a buoyant climax.

Perlman provides elucidating and humorous commentary between numbers interacting with the Netsky, Helfgot, and the audience.

It's a varied program from Jack Yellen and Lou Pollack's "My Yiddishe Mamma," immortalized by entertainer Sophie Tucker to Shlomo Carlbech ("The Singing Rabbi")'s "Adir Hu" to "Sheyibone Beys Hamikdosh," the most popular melody written for a Jewish liturgical text.

Khazones (cantorial music) comprise the original repertoire of the traditional Eastern-European Jewish prayer leader. Born of a culture whose primary theater was the religious sanctuary, the cantorial art focuses on texts that express both a deep longing for a return to a homeland and a powerful glorification of all that is divine.