The Roaring Twenties—Berlin, Paris, New York from the stage of the historic Mahaiwe theater in downtown Great Barrington, MA
December 12, 2021 at 4 PM
The cabaret beckons at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center Sunday, December 12 as Close Encounters With Music ushers in the holiday season in the Berkshires. In a performance that evokes the twenties of the last century—a time exemplified by Art Deco, Prohibition, the loosening of social restraints, Jazz, the Charleston and flappers—“Roaring Twenties” offers a panorama of composers and styles that defined and shaped the era: Gershwin, Kurt Weill, Alexander Zemlinsky, Hanns Eisler, Cole Porter, Poulenc, Schoenberg, and Erwin Schulhoff provide a bi-continental glimpse into a decade that still looms colorful, mythical and seductive in cultural history.
Soon to be banned in the thirties by the Third Reich, their brilliant, razor-sharp, wicked and enduring songs (“Bilbao”; “Speak Low”; “Makin’ Whoopee”; “Supply and Demand”; “’S Wonderful”) are part of the program featuring Entartete (degenerate, or Jewish, and then by definition undesirable) music, composers whose careers and lives were interrupted and irrevocably altered by the rise of Hitler. Under the new laws, the jazz and cabaret that had been embraced just a few years earlier were now viewed as decadent and posing a threat to European higher culture. The social, artistic, and cultural dynamism of this period ended abruptly with the stock market crash of 1929 and onset of the Great Depression and National Socialism but not before an eruption of creative frenzy in theater, film, art and music almost unparalleled in cultural history.
Wandering into the charged European pre-WWII landscape was also American composer Samuel Barber, whose works were inspired by his sojourn in Paris, as were those of Gershwin. The sonata for piano and cello is a sea of tranquility and emblematic of an isolationist America in an otherwise tempestuous political landscape. Hanns Eisler’s music got him twice ejected—initially from Germany for its subversiveness, and then from the US, for its political intent. Erwin Schulhoff, a European apostle of the new Jazz, died in a concentration camp. His Jazz Etudes for Piano, with movements titled Charleston, Blues, Chanson, Tango, and Toccata Sur le Shimmy “Kitten on the Keys” convey how fervently he internalized the edgy music of the day.
The program re-introduces an important but often neglected group of diverse composers whose works were suppressed during the Nazi era, along with those whose voices were silenced altogether, and places them and their works in context within 20th century music.
“The Roaring Twenties” performers are Heather Johnson, mezzo-soprano; Will Ferguson, tenor; Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano; and Yehuda Hanani, cello and artistic director. They bring to life the spirit of a music that was nearly destroyed. Hear the recovered voices, come to the cabaret!
Tickets, $52 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $28 (Balcony) and $15 for students, are available through the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413-528-0100 and mahaiwe.org. Subscriptions are $250 ($225 for seniors) for the series of 7 concerts (a 35% savings!). Season subscriptions are available through Close Encounters With Music – cewm.org.
Lithuanian pianist Ieva Jokubaviciute’s powerfully and intricately crafted performances have earned her critical accolades throughout North America and Europe. She made her orchestral debuts with the Chicago Symphony and her piano trio—Trio Cavatina—won the 2009 Naumburg International Chamber Music Competition. Her recording of Czech composers “Returning Paths: Solo Piano Works by Janacek and Suk” was also released to critical acclaim. She has partnered with violinist Midori, with recitals in Canada, at the Cartagena International Music Festival in Colombia, Germany, Austria, Japan, Poland, Peru, Mexico, India, and Sri Lanka. Jokubaviciute’s latest piano solo recording “Northscapes,” works by Kaja Saariaho and Anna Thorvaldsdottir, is due to be released this year. Appearances at international festivals include Marlboro, Ravinia, Bard, Caramoor Prussia Cove in England, Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany, festivals in Finland, and Music in the Vineyards in the Napa Valley.
Mezzo-soprano Heather Johnson, hailed by Opera News as “a dramatic singer in the truest sense,” has received critical acclaim for her work both on the opera and concert stage. Recent engagements include Jan Arnold in Everest with Austin Opera, Despina in Cosi fan Tutte with Mill City Summer Opera, Dinah in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti with Boston Lyric Opera, Laura in Luisa Miller at the Metropolitan Opera, and La Speranza in the U.S. stage premiere of Respighi’s realization of Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo with Chautauqua Opera. Also, the title role in Rossini’s Tancredi with Baltimore Concert Opera and Opera Southwest, Jo in Adamo’s Little Women with Madison Opera, Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress and the title role of Lizzie Borden both with Boston Lyric Opera. In 2012, Ms. Johnson made her house debut at the Metropolitan Opera as a Flower Maiden in Parsifal. She performed in the world premieres of The Long Walk by Jeremy Howard Beck with Opera Saratoga, Mark Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus with The Dallas Opera, and Fierce Grace: Jeannette Rankin, a song cycle commissioned by OPERA America and performed at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Acclaimed for his versatility in both opera and concert, William Ferguson made his debut with the Santa Fe Opera in 2006 as Caliban in the North American premiere of Thomas Adès’ The Tempest. He soon joined the roster of The Metropolitan Opera where he has performed Beppe in I Pagliacci as well as roles in Le Nozze di Figaro and The Magic Flute. He was also a regular artist at The New York City Opera. Additional credits include Wozzeck with Opera Festival of New Jersey, Così fan tutte at Aspen, Turandot with Opera Company of Philadelphia, Pirates of Penzance with Virginia Opera and Opera Omaha, the title role in Albert Herring at The Music Academy of the West, L’Heure Espagnole and Falstaff at the Tanglewood Music Center, and Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw at Chautauqua. Mr. Ferguson has appeared with the American Symphony Orchestra, BBC Orchestra (London), Boston Symphony Orchestra, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (England), Handel and Haydn Society, and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, among others.
Cellist Yehuda Hanani is founder and artistic director of Close Encounters With Music. His engaging chamber music with commentary has captivated audiences from Miami to Kansas City, Omaha, Calgary, Scottsdale, the Berkshires, and at the Frick Collection in New York City. A three-time recipient of the Martha Baird Rockefeller grant and a nominee for Grand Prix du Disque for his pioneering recording of Alkan, he appears with orchestras and on the recital stage on five continents. Mr. Hanani is one of the illustrious cellists of today, has appeared with musical luminaries—Aaron Copland, Andre Kostelanetz, Dawn Upshaw, David Robertson, Itzhak Perlman, Leon Fleisher—since his career was launched; and is a prolific recording artist and an innovator in reshaping concert programs to include original, illuminating commentary. He has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews in the media, and his weekly program on NPR affiliate station WAMC Northeast Radio, “Classical Music According to Yehuda” attracted thousands of fans. Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music for three decades, he is on the faculty of Mannes College in New York City and directs the Berkshire High Peaks Festival each summer.
“Life Is A Cabaret,” an essay in the season’s playbill by Richard Houdek, traces the movements, trends and personalities during the era variously known as the “Jazz Age” and the “Roaring Twenties.”
ABOUT CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC
Close Encounters With Music stands at the intersection of music, art and the vast richness of Western culture. Entertaining, erudite and lively commentary from founder and Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani puts the composers and their times in perspective to enrich the concert experience. Since the inception of its Commissioning Project in 2001, CEWM has worked with the most distinguished composers of our time—Paul Schoenfield, Osvaldo Golijov, Thea Musgrave, Lera Auerbach, Jorge Martin, John Musto, among others—to create over 20 important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon and on CD. A core of brilliant performers includes pianists Max Levinson, Roman Rabinovich, and William Wolfram; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Cho-Liang Lin, Vadim Gluzman and clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Emily Marvosh and William Sharp; the Escher, Amernet, Muir, Manhattan, Dover, Avalon 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.
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Close Encounters With Music
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