Close Encounters With Music



Twenty four years ago, Close Encounters' artistic director and cellist Yehuda Hanani began presenting thematic concerts of chamber music with commentary—at the time a novel and innovative format that has since become ubiquitous in the concert hall. In addition to tours that have taken the series to cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Omaha, Calgary, Kansas City, and South Florida, Close Encounters presents concerts each season in Scottsdale, Arizona, and in the Berkshires. To date, over seventy themes have been explored in the series' programs. A core group of leading artists appears regularly as guests at Close Encounters concerts: pianists William Wolfram, James Tocco, Adam Neiman, Walter Ponce, Emma Tahmizian, and Lydia Artymiw; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi,Yehonatan Berick,Vadim Gluzman, and Toby Appel; harpsichordist Lionel Party; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Lucille Beer, Amy Burton, Jennifer Aylmer, and William Sharp; the Amernet, Muir, Avalon, and Hugo Wolf quartets, and Cuarteto Latinoamericano; and guitarist Eliot Fisk. Choreographer David Parsons and actors Richard Chamberlain, Jane Alexander, and Sigourney Weaver have also appeared as guests, weaving narration and dance into the fabric of the programs.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC has also been a commissioning organization and has worked with some of the most outstanding composers of our day: Osvaldo Golijov's (whose Pasion was declared by the Boston Globe to be the "first masterpiece of the 21st century") How Slow The Wind, composed for soprano Dawn Upshaw and string quartet and presented during 2001, is already firmly established in the repertoire. In 2002, CEWM collaborated with the David Parsons Dance Company on a new work for musicians and dancers (including Chicago star Desmond Richardson) that received its world premiere at Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood and its New York City premiere at the Joyce Theater. Close Encounters also commissioned two-time Grammy-award winner John Musto to write River Songs, a cycle for baritone, cello and piano on a range of texts connecting humans to Nature and to its waterways. In addition to a full performance schedule, CEWM has presented master classes, concerts for children, and workshops for professional and amateur musicians. Monkey, a new theater piece for kids, based on a 15th-century Buddhist tale, received its world premiere in 2005. In 2000, a Close Encounters CD label was launched. Its 2002 release, Dazzle & Nostalgia, was hailed by Strad Magazine for its "élan and panache...elegant and sparkling." Close Encounters With Music is particularly proud of its innovative educational programs, community outreach efforts, audience enrichment activities, and artist development initiatives. In 2003, Sigourney Weaver participated in the Ozawa Hall performance "Measure for Measure: Shakespeare in Music" reading texts of the Bard and performing in the world premiere of a work by Kenji Bunch. In 2004, Jorge Martin's Hollywood Variations, written as an homage to composer Leonard Rosenman—and based on his original love theme from the James Dean film East of Eden—was premiered on both coasts. Also in the 2004 season, Russian composer Lera Auerbach's Last Letter received its world premiere in the newly restored vaudeville-era Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. Celebrating the rich cultural history of the Berkshires, CEWM has developed stimulating chamber music programs highlighting the Gilded Age, Edith Wharton and Edna St. Vincent Millay. In 2006, CEWM presented the world premiere of American composer Paul Schoenfield's trio for clarinet, cello and piano, included in an all-Schoenfield CD recorded for NAXOS. Most recent commissions have been Cuban-inspired Ropa Vieja for accordion, percussion and cello (composer Jorge Martin) and a klezmer-inflected cello quintet by Steven Dankner. In 2009, Close Encounters with Music introduces the 19th century composer Eduard Franck to American audiences as part of its Mendelssohn Celebration season.

Miami Herald
"CLOSE ENCOUNTERS -- a celebration of the uncommon in chamber music!"

" of the most interesting -- and intimate -- concert series around. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC Artistic director and cellist Yehuda Hanani has a knack for creating theme programs that explore various aspects of music with the help of some notable performers."

Berkshire Eagle

"'L'Histoire" known in English as "A Soldier's Story,' ... was an intriguing project, and a noble effort... [an]exuberant theatrical adventure... Stravinsky's winsomely galloping waltzes, polkas and marches framing the dialogues were in superb hands with the ensemble..."

"Great music played with great heart."

"Hanani is the supreme master builder of thematic programming."

"The blending of Hanani's personality and Bach's provided an exhilarating conclusion to the evening." 

"It was the sheer humanity of the performance that made it so good and it is humanity that has been lacking from classical music for so long." 

"The Mahaiwe Theatre was thronged...'Orpheus and His Lyre' emerged as an idea of substance, as well as popular appeal....The afternoon never failed to fascinate."

"There's a palpable mystique about these Close Encounters concerts."

Kansas City Star
"Spontaneity, sophistication and gritty music-making....Hanani's congenial manner and entertaining anecdotes succeeded in bringing the audience closer to the music."

Omaha World-Herald
"Audiences at the CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC series have come to expect the unexpected.....This series demonstrates the important lesson that great music-making does not require superstars from the classical music world."

Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
"CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC opened its season with a typically imaginative, ambitious program."

"Though Hanani, Prutsman and Upshaw all performed with that rare combination of mutual understanding and technical finesse which makes for the most satisfying chamber music, Hanani deserves special recognition for his astute program choices."

Arizona Republic
"The program provided stellar performances...played with passion and pathos..."

Rogovoy Report
"It was a brilliant way to kick off a season...demonstrating it to be a chamber music series on a par with anything heard at Tanglewood at the height of the season. For this, we year-rounders are blessed."

WAMC Northeast Radio
"The Close Encounters classical music series is well known for its adventurous, innovative programming. Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani struck gold by presenting a remarkable evening of rarely-heard medieval and Renaissance-era vocal music...The performers were rewarded with a highly enthusiastic ovation by the 400-plus concert-goers."