‘Know your enemy,’ says The Strad’s August 2015 issue cover star


Nerves are part of what we do and the thing is to be familiar with them. It’s not about getting rid of them; it’s having the ability to say, ‘OK I’m feeling nervous, so my playing will be affected, but not in any way that I haven’t dealt with before’. You want to know your enemy so there are no surprises.

But nerves are a funny thing and they often appear when you least expect it. I still suffer from them – I can play a small concert in a small town and all of a sudden I will become nervous for absolutely no reason, whereas the big concert in an ‘important’ place will be absolutely fine. If you assume that you will be nervous and then you aren’t, it will be the icing on the cake.

You must always play for your audience. Trying to figure out what the composer wants may be a personal process but ultimately you want to share this with your listeners and to invite their involvement in your interpretation. The one thing you must not do is to say, ‘This is none of your business; I’m going to play in my own little cubicle and you just happen to be there’. You have to communicate to the audience, ‘Listen, this is what I feel about this piece.’ If you can do that, despite the nerves, you have succeeded.

Read Itzhak Perlman's blog on practising.

Read a special interview with the great virtuoso in celebration of his 70th birthday in The Strad’s August 2015 issue, out now.

Photo: Lisa Marie Mazzucco / Sony Music

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