November 24, 2015

Itzhak Perlman awarded the highest US civilian honour at the White House

President Obama presented "the most beloved violinist of our time" with the Medal of Freedom in a ceremony.

"In an interview, violinist Itzhak Perlman was once asked what sound he loves," President Barack Obama regaled guests gathered at the White House on 24 November. "His eyes lit up and he replied: 'the sound of onions sizzling in a pan!'"

The President of the United States delivered a stirring speech honouring Itzhak Perlman, who turned 70 this year and has just received the Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the arts and education.

President Obama continued, describing how Perlman "perservered through childhood polio to become not only a virtuoso but also a powerful advocate for people with disabilities. He has played with every major orchestra in the world, conducted many of them, taught generations of young musicians, he has won Grammys...he has performed with all the greats - Leonard Bernstein, Yo-Yo Ma, Telly from Sesame Street.

"But what truly sets him apart and what makes him perhaps the most beloved violinist of our time is that he approaches music the way he approaches everything in life: with passion and with joy.

"He lays bare the soul of a piece, making us feel each note and giving us a glimpse of something bigger than ourselves. And by doing so he makes the world a little more beautiful."

Perlman previously cited performing at President Obama's inauguration at the White House as a highlight of his career. The year 2015 has been rich in tributes to the violinist, whose complete Warner Classics discography has been released in a 70th birthday boxed set.