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Grammy Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman practicing at home.
Courtesy of Chris Dapkins
Grammy Award-winning violinist Itzhak Perlman practicing at home.

Stream now or tune in Friday, June 18, 2021 at 8:30 p.m. on KPBS 2

Explore the life of the famous Jewish violinist, a transcendent performer and polio survivor

Stream now with KPBS Passport!

From Schubert to Strauss, Bach to Brahms, Mozart to…Billy Joel, Itzhak Perlman’s violin playing transcends mere performance to evoke the celebrations and struggles of real life. Director Alison Chernick's ("The Jeff Koons Show," "Matthew Barney: No Restraint") new documentary provides an intimate, cinéma vérité look at the remarkable life and career of this musician, widely considered the world’s greatest violinist.


AMERICAN MASTERS “Itzhak” premiered nationwide in 2018.

The film looks beyond the 16-time Grammy-winning musician to see the polio survivor whose parents emigrated from Poland to Israel, and the young man who struggled to be taken seriously as a music student when schools saw only his disability.

In the film, Perlman’s life story unfolds through conversations with fellow musicians and friends, including Billy Joel, Alan Alda, pianist Martha Argerich, cellist Mischa Maisky, and his wife of 50 years, Toby.

The Perlmans dedicate their lives to their large Jewish family in New York City, shared love for music and continual support of young musicians.

AMERICAN MASTERS "Itzhak" is a portrait of musical virtuosity that explores themes of Jewish identity, Jewish history, humor and love.


“I wanted the viewer to experience what makes Itzhak special rather than be told so through a series of talking heads,” said Chernick. “The sound Itzhak generates comes from his heart and flows through his hands. Through this film, we come to realize how extraordinary this process really is.”

“Itzhak” had its world premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival as the opening night film and was shown at numerous festivals including DOC NYC and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, where it won Best of Fest.

Itzhak and Toby Perlman with Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein at his violin workshop.
Courtesy of Daniel Kedem
Itzhak and Toby Perlman with Israeli luthier Amnon Weinstein at his violin workshop.


This film is available to stream on demand with KPBS Passport, video streaming for members supporting KPBS at $60 or more yearly, using your computer, smartphone, tablet, Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Fire or Chromecast. Learn more and activate your benefit now.


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Itzhak Perlman is on Facebook, and you can follow @PerlmanOfficial on Twitter.


A production of Voyeur Films and American Masters Pictures. Helen Yum is editor. Alison Chernick is director and producer. Penny Lieberman is executive producer. For AMERICAN MASTERS, Michael Kantor is executive producer. The series is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC’s for WNET and also seen on the WORLD channel.