Great Barrington – The last thing you expect to get from a chamber music performance is a lesson in conducting. But that’s essentially what violinist Julian Rachlin gave the audience on Saturday, December 3, at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Yes, the season’s second “Close Encounters With Music” (CEWM) presentation was a program of chamber music – a violin sonata by Camille Saint-Saens and a piano quintet by Ceasar Franck. But, unbeknownst to many in Saturday’s Mr, Rachalin is not only a violinist of international repute but also well regarded orchestral conductor in Moscow, Luxembourg, Lucerne, Hamburg, and many other cities on both sides of the Atlantic. Whether directing an ensemble of five or ninety-five, Rachlin exerts a discernible influence on every performance he gives. Yes, all first-chair violinists must be able to act as leaders of their sections, but nobody does the job like Julian Rachlin. His cues are writ large in body language that’s impossible to miss, even from the last row of the auditorium.

Saturday evening’s CEWM program, titled “The Passion of Camile Saints-Saens and Cesar Franck,” focused on music inspired by these two French composers’ romantic infatuation with Franck’s student, Augusta Holmes. So it only made sense that the program should begin with a record of a piece by Mademoiselle Holmes herself. The Wagner-inflected “Nuit et l’amour,” from her symphonic ode for chorus and orchestra “Ludus pro Patria,” proved an enticing introduction to the works of this lesser-known, but worthy, Romantic-era composer. (We’ll hear more from Augusta Holmes in CEWM’s June 10, 2017 program, “Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman-Celebrating 100 Years of Woman’s Suffrage!”)

Camille Saint-Saens endured vociferous criticism for his sinful habit of allowing craftsmanship and technique to supersede emotional ardor of the sort popular in his dad. But there was no shortage of emotion in Saturday’s performance of his demanding Violin Sonata No.1, Op. 75.

When competent musicians deliver a technically performance of Saint-Saens’s first violin sonata, it tends to sound like a pianist following a violinist following a composer’s score. That’s okay, since even a perfunctory performance of this sonata is a virtuosic one and amply impressive. But, when Roman Rabinovich (piano) and Diane Cohen (violin) play this piece, it sounds more like an individual musician with four hands playing the piano and violin parts simultaneously while channeling the composer’s thoughts in real time. Whether you called it “controlled spontaneity” or simply “magic,” such unity of purpose and execution made it hard to say who was accompanying whom on this piece. The couple’s performance was brilliant in the sense that it illuminated easy-to-miss details in the score and maintained crystal clarity throughout the densest passages. And they get extremely dense: Saint-Saens wrote it that way to show off his own virtuosic keyboard technique. It’s scary stuff. For the undaunted Rabinovich, however, it was a mirthful frolic celebrating the great composer’s sparkling wit and keen sense of craftsmanship. The music may very well be an expression of the composers frustrated sexual desire, and there’s certainly plenty of tension in it. But there’s also much joy. Perhaps it’s simply the joy he took in his ability to musically distract himself from his baser instincts.

Last on the program, Cesar Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor may, on first listen, seem appropriate family entertainment. But when its naughty intentions are revealed, it becomes clear that the work is suitable for more mature audiences Franck wrote the piece as an expression of the libidinous impulses he felt for his young composition student, Augusta Holmes and, while the quintet incorporates no text, his dutiful wife’s public condemnation of the piece is a pretty good indication that the composer articulated his unwholesome desires clearly enough.

Cesar Franck’s piano quintet would, of course, of sounded perfectly fine without Julian Rachlin’s direction – the musicianship was there in spades squared, and the players were on their toes, vigilant and ready to charge out of the gate. But, as its most ardent aficionados are well aware, chamber music occasionally gets even better than “perfectly fine.” Sometimes it rises to the level of sublimity and astonishes event the jaded. Unusually gifted directors like Julian Rachlin can facilitate this. And when they do, an interesting piece becomes riveting, a touching one gripping, and a perfunctory recitation of notes becomes strangely and irresistibly powerful. Performed at this level on Saturday evening, Franck’s quintet seized Mahaiwe listeners by the throat and refused to let them go until the very last note had died away.


FROM BACH TO BACHIANAS: Songs Without Words •Yehuda Hanani (vc); Eliot Fisk (gtr) •ALBANY 1510 (78:00)

Regular readers of this publication are bound to know that I’m not generally receptive to programs of works transcribed for settings other than those for which they were intended, much less to programs made up of excerpts from complete works thrown together in a seemingly hodgepodge compilation. I make an exception, however, for this particular album for two reasons: First, a number of these transcriptions aren’t that far removed from their originals; it’s not hard to imagine, for example, that a piece originally for cello and piano, such as Fauré’s Sicilienne, op.78, would be quite effective with the piano part transcribed for guitar. And second, two internationally acclaimed artists, cellist Yehuda Hanani and guitarist Eliot Fisk, have come together here to make well over an hour’s worth of gloriously beautiful music.

My one and only complaint is the skimpy album note; devoted mainly to bios of the two artists, it provides little information about the works on the disc, requiring more time and effort to identify the provenance of some of the pieces than one should have to spend. For example, if you weren’t familiar with Robert Beaser’s Mountain Songs you would learn from the liner note only that they were originally for flute and guitar, but unless you did your own research, you wouldn’t learn that come from a collection of eight songs, of which only four of them—Nos. 1, 2, 7, and 5, in that order—are included in these transcriptions for cello and guitar. Likewise, you wouldn’t necessarily know that César Cui’s “Orientale” is the ninth number out of 24 pieces for violin and piano from the composer’s Kaleidoscope, op. 50; that Bloch’s “Prayer” is the first number in the composer’s suite of three pieces for cello and piano, titled From Jewish Life; that “Andalucia” by Ernesto Lecuona is the second number out of six pieces in the composer’s Suite Andalucia, originally for solo piano; or that Luigi Boccherini’s A­ Major Sonata, published in London sometime between 1770 and 1775, is G 4 in the Yves Gérard catalog of the composer’s works. Information such as this is expected and should be included in an album’s documentation. As for the“Whitman’s sampler” aspect of the disc, Eliot Fisk silences all objections when he writes, “In cheerful defiance of the present ubiquitous tyranny of the one composer CD, these selection shark back to an earlier time, when titans like Casals and Segovia, our respective mentors on cello and guitar, walked the earth and romanticism was king.”

The clutch of Schubert songs is both the easiest and the most problematic to deal with here. As far as I know, Schubert did not write anything for guitar, though a myth persists that he actually played the instrument. It’s not hard to imagine, though, a guitar accompanying his songs in a setting where a piano was unavailable or, as a matter of practicality, not likely to be found, as at a picnic on the bank of a stream. The more debatable issue is the matter of recasting a vocal piece as an instrumental number. Mendelssohn wrote songs without words, but Schubert’s songs are not wordless. Therefore, lovely as these transcriptions for cello and guitar are to listen to, and as beautifully played as they’re by Hanani and Fisk, their contextual meaning is lost.

None of the other items on the disc suffers this fate because each involves the transcription and transposition from one instrumental medium to another. In two cases—the Fauré and the Bloch—the pieces are already for cello, so only the piano parts are here realized on guitar. The Boccherini, which is also originally for cello, is a special case. The G 4 Sonata in question here is one in a long list of some 30 such sonatas Boccherini designated for “cello and basso.” The “basso” part, however, is not what you might think. It’s not the type of figured bass line one would expect to be filled in by a keyboard player performing a continuo function. Though these sonatas are not included in Boccherini’s autograph catalog, there seems to be general agreement that the “basso” part was actually intended for a second cello. Given its unharmonized, unadorned “basso” line, Fisk singles out the Boccherini for special treatment, explaining in his note that he has fleshed out a virtuosic guitar part from the score’s skeletonized second staff. It turns an otherwise drab, Sans Serif­-sounding piece into one with a Wingdings bold personality. If only Boccherini had thought of that.

The Czárdás is the only piece by which Vittorio Monti (1868–1922) is remembered today, though he wrote a number of ballets and operettas during his time in Paris, while serving a stint as conductor of the Lamoureux Orchestra. Composed in 1904, the Czárdás, as you’d guess from its title, is one of those archetypal gypsy violin pieces, the formula for which is enshrined in works such as Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen and Saint-­Saëns’s Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and grotesquely parodied by Ravel in his Tzigane. I wouldn’t go so far as to call Monti’s Czárdás a work for beginners or unaccomplished amateurs—its perpetual motion second half poses some technical challenges—but the technical demands don’t rise to the level of the Sarasate, Saint-­Saëns, or Ravel pieces. This transcription for cello and guitar works quite well, and the guitar even gives the Czárdás an authentic flavor of music ­making in a gypsy camp, where the violin would probably have been accompanied by a guitar ­like plucked instrument, perhaps a mandolin. All manner of arrangements of the work exist, including one for violin and guitar by a G. dos Santos.

Of Villa­-Lobos’s nine Bachianas Brasileiras suites, the uniquely scored No. 5 for eight cellos and a wordless soprano vocalization has always been the most popular. The first of its two movements, Aria, is a hauntingly beautiful piece, and it’s this movement we hear in this arrangement for a single cello and guitar.

Beaser’s Mountain Songs in their original form for flute and guitar were recorded by Eliot Fisk and Paula Robison on a Pergola CD (5173217), and while I’m sorry to say I haven’t heard it, I have heard and reviewed the flute and guitar versions performed by Carla Auld and Ana Maria Rosadoon MSR in Fanfare 34:5. Much as I liked that recording, for me, the flute simply cannot bring out the deeply rooted feelings of the American heartland that resonate in this music the way the cello can. In just a few musical notes, these songs convey the sense and spirit of America’s Deep South and midlands in a way that words cannot possibly communicate.

While it may be true that composers have rarely written for cello and guitar, Yehuda Hanani is not correct in stating in his album note that no literature exists for this combination of instruments. At least one composer with some degree of name recognition, Friedrich Burgmüller (1806–1874)composed Three Nocturnes for Cello and Guitar, and there are others, too, though perhaps more obscure, such as Justus Johann Friedrich Dotzauer (1783–1860), who composed Potpourri for Cello and Guitar. I imagine if one looked long and hard enough, one could put together a program of original works for cello and guitar, but these transcriptions and arrangements, all made by Hanani and Fisk, suit the instruments nicely and are imaginatively realized as well as superbly played by two master musicians. Highly recommended. Jerry Dubins


By Eli Newberger

Great Barrington – On arriving at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center shortly before intermission on October 25, your reviewer was shown to a seat in the back of the hall. On listening to the final Rondeau (Allegro) movement of Mozart’s 1780 Oboe Quartet in F Major, K.370, embarrassment on arriving late (because I mistakenly thought the starting time was 8 p.m.) turned to astonishment at the quality of the music.

Here were four world-class virtousi tossing off with evident delight a tour de force of scampering runs, perfectly coordinated phrases, and stunning, gorgeous, dynamic surprises. Almost unbelievably, the oboist, James Austin Smith, gave a veritable master class in circular breathing in the service of sublime expression. (Here, a wind player simultaneously breathes in while he blows his instrument, hoping against hope to sustain a continuous line.) One doesn’t listen to music making like this every week, or for that matter, every year, and from this short sample, I knew I had to write about it.

The remaining two pieces of the concert, the Adagio and Rondo for Glass Harmonica and Quartet in C minor, KV.617 (1791) and the Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, KV.493 (1786, Vienna), featured Mozart’s seeking heavenly exultation in his last work of chamber music, and rejoicing in the conversational possibilities of piano and string. The title of the evening seemed well chosen indeed.

The role of glass harmonica, or as Benjamin Franklin described it, Armonica, was performed on celesta by the splendid young pianist, Roman Rabinovich. This transformed the work from a dreamy set of ethereal washes to a vivid exploration of high tonal impulses and delightfully strange collisions of instrumental overtones. And, mirabile dictu, Rabinovich was able to pull from it both dynamic shadings and clearly articulated harmonic transitions. He deployed the limited touch-sensitivity of the celesta with lighthearted subtly and aplomb.

The ensemble was arrayed from left to right: flute, Tara Helen O’Connor; oboe, James Austin Smith: violin, Daniel Philips: celesta, Roman Rabinovich; cello, Yehuda Hanani: and viola, Xiao-Dong Wang. The seating arrangement enabled a beautiful integration of woodwinds and strings, both as sections and as an ensemble. As well, it gave visual access to their sensitive and lively interactions with the celesta.

Yehuda Hanani, its obvious leader, served as the emotional and rhythmic gyroscope of the group, foretelling the dynamic shadings and risings and falling intensities with welcoming glances, subtle bowing gestures, and tonal nuances on his cello. In Hanani’s hands, each impulse of pedal point conveyed a particular rhythmic and expressive meaning. His mastery in this regard was even more especially evident in the piano quartet that followed.

This is an unusual and precious skill in the performance of certain repeated notes, typically the fundamental or dominant of the starting harmony, played in the lower register, which enables melodic, contrapuntal, and harmonic development above, the sustained notes soothing the inevitable dissonances that occur when lines collide. And, as well, pushing the rhythm forward. Too often, all the notes can sound as if they are played the same. Not so here!

The overall sensibility of the glass harmonica work was whimsical and, without question, celestial. One cannot imagine a group of players more delighted to engage with this curious keyboard instrument, which Mr. Rabinovich had played for the first time in rehearsal that very morning.

Together, they projected an exquisitely-unfolding musical story, with an organic sense of pacing and respirational pausing, all the while seizing on delicious, witty exchanges among the characters; across the sections; and in fascinating combinations, such as antiphonal exchanges with the heavenly echoes of the celesta, beckoning, pleading, and laughing, and, toward the end, when the first violin, counterpoised against the viola and cello in unison, leads an exquisite two-part invention, a kind of Mozartian conversation with the guardian of the pearly gates.

Perhaps, toward the end of his short life, Mozart was arguing for acceptance of his dualistic character: to outweigh on the scale of judgment his astoundingly profane behavior and speech with his sublime music.

What of these oddly expressive instruments, the celesta and the glass harmonica? First, Mozart, who died in 1791, could not have known the celesta. A Parisian harmonium builder, Auguste Mustel, invented it in 1886.

To your reviewer, who has actually performed on the celesta at Ozawa Hall, this instrument seemed until now to be a keyboard-powered glockenspiel, blessed with a dampening pedal, great for sugarplum fairies in “Nutcracker” and twinkling presentations of rose crystal in “Der Rosenkavalier,” but of little use in extended passages. Not so here! This was a voyage of discovery, thanks to Roman Rabinovich. This amazing young artist was evidently trained at Curtis and Julliard to create beautiful music on whatever keyboard was available to him.

(Full disclosure: my own star turn on celesta took place on August 23, 2008, in the course of a concert given by the Cupcake Philharmonic Orchestra during Family Day at Tanglewood, while conducting and doubling on piano in support of the magnificent BSO tuba, Mike Roylance, on George Kleinsinger’s and Paul Tripp’s whimsical children’s children’s story, “Tubby the Tuba.” Carolyn Newberger, who drew the portraits that illustrate this review, performed Tubby’s musical confident, Peepo the Piccolo, on her instrument. Carolyn also doubled -on flute – and more than held her own with her seat-mates, the clarinet, Tom Martin, and oboe, Rob Sheena, of the BSO.)

Well prior to Franklin’s invention of the Armonica in 1761, in which 37 glass bowls were mounted horizontally on an iron spindle, turned by a foot-treadle of he kind one would see on an early Singer sewing machine, the ancient Greeks described a “harmonica to produce music for the soul by finger dipping in water,” on glass., a hydrodaktulopsychicharmonica. Then, in Mozart’s time, starting in the 1740’s, the Irish musician, Richard Pockrich, performed in London on a set of upright crystal tankards filled with varying amounts of water.

According to the website of the Philadelphia Franklin Institute, which owns one of Benjamin Franklin’s original Armonicas, commissioned from his instruction from the instrument-maker, Charles James, in London in 1761, Franklin said: “Of all my inventions, the glass Armonica has given me the greatest personal satisfaction.”

In 1773, Mozart and his father encountered one of Franklin’s Armonicas at the home of the physician and author of the theory of “animal magnetism” or “mesmerism,” Franz Anton Mesmer. Franklin, Mesmer, and Mozart were all Freemasons, who welcomed “glass Music,” as it was called, for the promotion of “human harmony.”

Leopold Mozart wrote home that both Mesmer and Wolfgang applied their talents tot he Armonica: “Do you know that Herr von Mesmer plays (the) harmonica unusually well? He is the only person in Vienna who has learned it, and he possesses a much finer glass instrument than Miss Davies does. Wolfgang too has played upon it. How I should like to have one!” Most regrettably, there is no recorded meeting of Franklin and Mozart, however. (One would have liked to be a fly on the wall whenthe talk turned to country matters. They appeared to share certain characterological propensities.)

Notwithstanding the production of more than five thousand of Armonicas in the course of his lifetime, Franklin did not take a penny in royalties. In the year of his death, 1790, he wrote of all of his inventions, “As we enjoy great Advantages from the Inventions of others we should be glad of an Opportunity to serve others by any Invention of ours, and this we should do freely and generously.” Take that, Big Pharma and Monsanto.

The E flat chord that began the 1786 piano quartet sounded astonishingly luscious and warm. To a listener who hadn’t previously experienced a live music concert in the Mahaiwe, much less to a full house, balconies and all there was certainly something magical about the acoustics. It had the power of a declaration in the first movement of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony.

But as the performance unfolded, with Roman Romanovich playing a Steinway B piano, seated slightly behind Daniel Phillips, violin, on the left and Yehuda Hanani, cello, to his left; and Xiao-Dong Wang, viola on the right, it was clear that the tonal temperature was equally generated from their unusually warm musical personalities, deeply felt tonal sensibilities, and, and their relentless focus on creating a generous ensemble sound.

Daniel Phillips played with a sweetness and emotional availability that betrayed the stereotype of the first violinist in a quartet. His attentive listening and concern to support the ensemble was marvelous to behold, especially with the recent memory of the Julliard Quartet’s South Mountain concert in Pittsfield. There, a new first violinist, without question a monster player, all but blew his colleagues away. Not so here. This was all in service of exalted quartet performance.

Equally, Xiao-Dong Wang made his viola, notable for a keen and focused resonance in a smallish instrument, into a continuously adaptive alto voice, adjusting subtly in every line and chord to the temperature of the harmony and the angle of the melody.

Where Roman Romanovich’s piano playing was voluble, broadly flowing across the entire piano range, coloristic in best sense of this pre-Romantic idiom, and totally at ease with his demanding, featured role, Yehuda Hanani was more modest as a cellist and leader, attending closely to the flow of the counterpoint and, where needed, pulling back or pushing forth the rhythm. Constantly checking in visually with his colleagues, he energized with his bow and caramel cello sound a broad palette of harmonic and rhythmic emphases and accents. Hanani was an embodiment of Lao-Tse, the philosopher of Daoism, who observed that a good leader is the one whose followers, when the job is done, will think they have done it themselves.

At the rising, intense, accelerating finale of the first movement, marked Allegro, the audience burst into applause. This was fully deserved, and probably as Mozart would have wished it. Rather than to maintain straight faces, the members of the quartet smiled and nodded delightedly. This gave a lovely sense of reciprocity to the proceedings, even as the Emily Posts of chamber music might frown at such a violation of concert etiquette.

The second movement is scored as 3/8, but the predominance of two-bar phrases gives it almost, but not quite, a 6/8 sensibility. Which is to say, it didn’t rock, as in a boat, as 6/8 typically does, but breathed in superbly repeated rhythmic segments, with subtle, and affecting pauses. The melodic expressions, most especially those uttered in pianissimo, moved so gently when the strings were in dialogue with the piano that, abetted by these pauses, they brought tears to one’s eyes, Surely this was mature chamber music performing of the highest order.

The third movement, back in quatrernary rhythm, took the form of a dance. And what a dance! Rabinovich surveyed an entire landscape of pianistic devices, arpeggios, runs, bursts of harmonic variation. But he always held back just enough to yield tantalizing tot he leaping, shimmering sonorities in in the strings. Hanani’s pedal points provided just the frission of predictability and uncertainty to the offset the rising momentum. Everyone, it was clear, was constantly absorbing, thinking, and urging one another on, with extraordinary brio and control.

After a wonderful, delightful exchange of grace notes between the violin and piano – drawing giggles from the audience – the mood suddenly shifted to minor, with blazing runs up and down the piano, with just a hint of impending tragedy. Shortly, however, a sudden, ambiguous diminished chord served as the pivot from sadness to a lively blossoming of the earlier E flat theme. We, relieved, were then treated to a stunning, majestic resolution, a brilliant ending to an unforgettable encounter with music. Bravi!


Me: “How long have you two been together?”

Yoffe: “Too long.”

Me: ‘What is it like when the two of you practice? Do you fight a lot?”

Yoffe: “It’s beautiful.”

Gluzman: “It’s horrible.”

So began an oft-hilarious chat with the husband-wife team of violinist Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe. Hopefully you don’t have to share their Russian Jewish ancestry to understand that at the heart of such self-deprecating humor are two artists so united in their love for music, family, and each other that they do all they can to stay together whenever they go on the road to perform 

“Our daughter Orli, who will be ten in December, plays the violin a little bit,” Gluzman explained. “It was her idea to do it. I think the main reason is, there is a teacher here in Chicago, Betty Hague, who is a family friend for many, many years, even before Orli was born. She runs the Hague Academy of Music, where we’ve given master classes for children for years. Orli grew up seeing the place, and I think she wanted to belong to it on the social level, first of all.” 

“It’s good for her,” says Yoffe. “She’s been traveling to concerts with us since she was three months old. Now she can relate better to what her parents are doing,” 

Gluzman speaks next. “Our schedules are such that, in October and November, Angela travels to Germany with our adorable fourteen-month old Apricot toy poodle, Aviva, who is trained not to bark when she sits in the back at concerts. I travel first to Buffalo and then to Columbus with Orli. My trips are shorter, so Orli will miss less school. I will also do homework with her, mostly in dark movie theaters. Of me and Angela, I was not the good one at school.” 

School, it should be noted, figures prominently in their relationship. Gluzman and Yoffe first met at the same school in Riga when Vadim was about seven years old and Angela was a much older twelve. Later, before Gluzman’s family emigrated with him to Israel, he scheduled a little recital as a farewell. Because his regular pianist had already emigrated, his mother had the inspired idea to call family friend Yoffe to ask her to play. A year later, after Angela’s family emigrated, Gluzman asked her to play in his first recital in Israel.

“Then, already, our relationship was a bit more than about playing music,” says Yoffe with a smile.

Love also figures prominently in Gluzman’s relation ship with cellist Yehuda Hanani, whose Close Encounters with Music series hosts the duo this month.

“I’ve known Yehuda for years, and I’ve played concerts for him for at least twelve years, whenever my schedule allows,” says Gluzman. “He’s a beautiful musician, one of those honest souls you rarely find today. He gives himself to music, and he attracts people who think and feel alike. I think this is part of the success of his series.

“Every time I came to the Berkshires, we talked about someday bringing in me and Angela, but it never worked out. Finally, rather than trying to collaborate with Yehuda on music for trio or more, we decided to make it happen by performing a pre-rehearsed program for duo.”

In the first half, when they play Mozart’s Violin Sonata in F, K377 and Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80, they go from F major to F minor. “We go from the absolutely bursting-with-champagne-bubbles Mozart to the darkest of the dark in Prokofiev,” says Gluzman, not ing that the duo’s recording of Prokoviev’s First Sonata has recently been released by BIS.

“The Mozart sonata is one of the most extraordinary works—it’s Mozart, so it’s by nature extraordinary. But the way it opens, it really sounds like a champagne cork has popped out of the bottle. Then I hear Piazzolla and Chopin in the second movement variations; to me, one of them is a clear tango.

“It is the sign of the greatest genius when you transcend time and predict the future without trying to. We hear everything from Beethoven on in his writing. For me, this is what makes Mozart’s music so attractive. And then, of course, there is the contrast between the Mozart and Prokofiev’s war sonata, where we sink into the darkest parts of human emotion.” 

The second half begins with two suites. Stravinsky’s is, in Gluzman’s words, “sparkling neo-classical ballet music,” while Tchaikovsky’s earlier composition “drips with schmaltz.” 

The last piece, Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s paraphrase on Figaro from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, is pure fun. It was written for Jascha Heifetz after he helped the composer escape repressions in Europe. Expect the duo to pull out all the stops. 

“Once you feel the unspoken that flows between per formers onstage, it becomes addictive,” says Gluzman at the end of our conversation.  

“Yes, you have a place in your hearts for it,” says Yoffe. “If it’s not with you, you become empty.” 

“Basically, we are addicts, and we need to fulfill the addiction,” says her husband. “Maybe that’s not the most poetic way of explaining it, but it is very true. When you realize that you can express yourself and be understood and felt on a much higher level, it’s a feeling like nothing else.” 

The Miraculous Violin: An Evening with Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe takes place Saturday, Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington. Call 413-528-010 or see http://www.cewm.org. 


Sharon Smullen, Special to the Eagle

Charles Caine designed costumes for Berkshire soprano Maureen O’Flynn, above left, as Mimi in ‘La Boheme’ at the former Berkshire Opera Company. (Eagle file)

LENOX — International costume designer Charles Caine spent nearly two decades at the Metropolitan Opera draping divas in dresses and tenors in tails, all the while amassing tales of personalities and pitfalls along with souvenirs of operatic creations.

On Sunday at 4 p.m. at Edith Wharton’s Lenox estate, the Mount, in “Footlights at the Met — a Peek behind the Curtain,” Close Encounters With Music will take a trip into the rarefied world of opera as Caine shares personal stories and memorabilia — such as legendary Carmen Emma Calvé’s scarf and Zeffirelli’s Cleopatra bodice for Leontyne Price.

From his Egremont home, Caine elaborated on his rewarding career. A Manhattan native, he studied theater design at college. When the draft sent him to a television training center in Augusta, Ga., he befriended a local conscript who as a teenager worked backstage whenever the Met toured south.

His friend left the army and joined the Met full time, helping Caine get a job managing the costume shops. “It was the late 60s, the last year of the old opera house,” Caine said. On an early assignment, he costumed Maria Callas on her return to New York to sing “Tosca.” An incredible lady, he recalled, with the highest standards and always prepared — unlike the tenors, who often didn’t know their music or waltzed in late. “She became very short-tempered with them,” he said. “That’s what gave her the bad reputation.”

While the new Met took shape, he worked with architects and also prepared eight productions for the first season at Lincoln Center.”They gave me a week off to get married that summer,” he recalled. As resident costume designer, Caine turned concepts by famous designers into costumes and adapted them for subsequent productions. “We ended up having eight or nine different sets of ‘Tosca’ costumes in different shapes and sizes,” he said.

In a career highlight, he worked alongside artist Marc Chagall on “The Magic Flute,” “collaging thousands and thousands of little pieces of fabric in all sorts of colors” onto white costumes. “I sat in a studio with Marc Chagall for three and a half months, hand painting along with him all these costumes,” he said. He will display two pieces that he framed. “They’re a blaze of color — they are beautiful.”

When a warehouse fire destroyed many costumes in the ‘70s, he made his Met debut designing costumes for a new production of “Don Pasquale.” “It opened on New Year’s Eve,” he recalled.

After 17 years, he left to work for opera companies from San Francisco to Miami and overseas. He designed Berkshire Opera’s final three shows, dressing local soprano Maureen O’Flynn in her first “trousers role” as “Cherubino” in “The Marriage of Figaro.”He maintains a long-standing professional relationship and friendship with retired soprano Martina Arroyo.”I’m just finishing a recital dress right now, because she is receiving one of the Kennedy honors in December,” he said.Twenty years ago, Close Encounters artistic director Hanani performed with Arroyo on a cruise and learned her costumer lived nearby. With current opera interest high, Hanani invited Caine to share his stories and artifacts, “giving us some insight into these legendary singers.”

Their paths almost crossed during the old Met’s last season, Hanani said, recalling a long-forgotten memory. Recently arrived from Israel, he had no tails to wear for his New York debut concert. A Met manager whose son he coached on cello told him to come to the theater.

“I remember taking an elevator down into the bowels of the building, floors and floors underground and an endless collection of costumes,” Hanani said. “A tailor with an Italian accent gave me the tails of a famous tenor; his name was sewn on the back.” He wore them with pride.

Sometimes things do fall through the cracks, Caine admitted. When a tenor went down on one knee at a “Carmen” dress rehearsal in front of four thousand people, “all of a sudden I heard krrrk — the crotch of his pants had split open.” “His big blousy underwear start-ed falling out,” Caine recalled. “He looked like he was giving birth to white cotton.”

Once, during a “Die Fledermaus” fitting, he walked in on a naked Kitty Carlisle. Ten years later, when they met on the staircase at a publisher’s party, “she said, ‘I know you from someplace,’ “ he recalled, “ ‘and oh, you know a lot about me, more than most people do!’”

At the Mount, Caine will share some revealing secrets of his own.


By David Scribner

The Berkshires are home to distinguished cultural events, but none so brilliant, perhaps, as the chamber music series, Close Encounters with Music, that opens its 21st season this Saturday at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington.

rue to its tradition of presenting the unexpected, the October 20 CEWM program focuses on a rarely heard format: piano works for four hands. On the program are works by Schubert, Milhaud, Mozart, Chopin and Corigliano, performed by the Russian-born duo, Vassily Primakov and Natalia Lavrova, both winners of prestigious international competitions.

The Close Encounters series is the brainchild of Israeli-born cellist Yehuda Hanani, and it is precisely what its name implies – an intimate encounter with a stunning array of musical traditions from a variety of cultures and eras. But it is also an encounter with the intellectual and artistic contexts in which music was composed and treasured.

Before each concert begins, Hanani takes to the stage to deliver his witty, informed and insightful commentary on the theme of the music the audience is about to experience. And his remarks, replete with information about the music and the composer (“Beethoven’s student Carl Czerny worked on four or five pieces at once, and lived alone with nine cats.”) are delicious hors d’oeuvres to the musical feast to follow.

We pioneered the thematic concert format. Music shouldn’t exist in a vacuum,” Hanani observes, speaking from his home in Spencertown, N.Y. “It takes place in a much larger cultural experience. I try to connect the dots, and make the link between painting, the arts, literature and the evolution of thought in the West. By putting music in context, it becomes a mirror of our life.”

A professor of violincello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory, international soloist and master class teacher, Hanani infuses his students with the same embrace of what the music represents in the wider cultural milieu.

When I have my students learn Debussy, for instance, I send them to the museum to study impressionist paintings, to absorb the aesthetic concepts that, with Debussy, were expressed with music rather than pigment.”

hen he was 19, Leonard Bernstein heard Hanani perform, and persuaded Israeli officials to have him released from military duty so that he could attend Juilliard where he studied with Leonard Rose.

His approach for the Close Encounters chamber music concert series seems to have struck a chord with music lovers — in fact, by attendance figures for chamber music they are hugely popular. Close Encounters attracts audiences of 400 to 500 at the Mahaiwe performances.

“Our objective is to have a blend of classical, contemporary and cutting-edge music,” Hanani observed. “Our audiences are responding very well. We try to have the quality of performances that you would hear at Lincoln Center, with an intimacy that exceeds the New York experience. In New York, you are doing well to get 400 people for a chamber music concert, but it’s amazing that in the rural Berkshires we regularly get that size audience. We are informal and friendly. It’s like a family, and it feels as if you are playing for friends.”

Close Encounters with Music programs are indeed an eclectic exploration of musical styles. In the past year, concerts offered the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin; a celebration of Franz Liszt (“Lisztomania”); the Grand Piano Quartets of Schumann and Brahms; an exploration of China’s influence on music that included the American premiere of a piece for pipa and cello; string quartets by Beethoven, Schubert and Berg; and an array of compositions from the Roaring Twenties.

This season, the lineup is just as diverse. It includes a documentary film, “Shadows in Paradise,” to be shown at the Little Cinema in Pittsfield; a baroque festival with the Tragicomedia Baroque Ensemble; two concerts of Grand Piano trios; an evening with the baritone Benjamin Luxon, offering observations on opera, to be held at the Lenox Club; Nordic Lights, an examination of the music of Edvard Grieg; and a concert of music for soprano, guitar and cello, featuring Eliot Fisk on guitar, Jennifer Zetland, soprano, and Hanani on cello.

We try to think globally,” Hanani explains. “We like to bring the world to Great Barrington.”


On 2 February 2012, the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts presented the Close Encounters with Music program Lisztomania. This chamber music series involves not only the music, but also fascinating commentary by cellist Yehuda Hanani that adds considerably to the audience’s understanding of the works. For example, before pianist Jeffrey Swann played two of the Legends by Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886), Hanani explained that the first told of St. Francis preaching to the birds and the second of St Francis of Paola walking on the waves. When the latter saint was refused passage on a boat, it is said that he laid his cloak down on the water and rode it across the Strait of Messina between Calabria and Sicily. Liszt owned a painting of St Francis of Paola walking on the water and he captured the story in music. Swann’s sensitive performance communicated the musical picture of a passage through rough seas with high waves rushing to the shore.

The second group of Liszt pieces consisted of the Romance Oubilee, La Lugubre Gondola, and three of his Consolations. Most of the music on this program was written in the latter half of the composer’s life. The Romance dates from his sixty-ninth year but it still has the feeling of romantic love when played by piano and cello. La Lugubre Gondola seems now to have prophesied the death of Wagner, which took place in Venice a short time after the work was written. The German composer’s funeral procession began with a gondola leading the procession to the railway station. Hanani and Swann played the piece with emotion-filled elegance that was never exaggerated or or overstated. Three Consolations, short pieces that Liszt wrote around 1850, were the simple romantic delights that completed the first half of this concert.

After the intermission, came the piece de resistance, the C minor Piano Trio, Opus 66, by Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847). He composed this expertly crafted trio in 1845 and it was the last chamber piece published during his lifetime. The first movement is marked Allegro eneretico e con fuoco. Hanani, Swann and phenomenal young violinist Tim Fain played it with all the energy and fire that any composer could ask for. It was the beginning of a brilliant rendition. The plaintive theme that followed was an opulent contrast to the more urgent music at the end of the movement. The middle movements marked Andante espressivo and Scherzo: molto allegro quasi presto, gave us a spectacular dialogue between the strings and the keyboard. There were also gorgeous harmonies between violin and cello.

For the finale marked Allegro appassionato, the trio played propulsive and they seemed to coalesce as one unit because each was so responsive to the other. They were truly an impressive group. All of the pieces played this evening require considerable virtuosity and these musicians played them with consummate ease. Happily for Arizona music lovers, Close Encounters with Music will return to Scottsdale on 8 March 2012, with performances of piano quartets by Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms. The soloists will be cellist Yehuda Hanani, Pianist Lydia Artymiw, Violinist Arnaud Sussmann, and Violist Toby Appel


By Joseph Dalton

Special to the Times Union

Close Encounters with Music, the chamber series in the Berkshires, is in the midst, is in the midst of its 20th anniversary season and has six more concerts between now and the early summer. The line-up of programs is typically thoughtful and varied with a healthy sampling of mainstream classics form the Romantic era performed by the ensemble members, plus a guest appearance by the fine young Dedaelus Quartet on May 19. There are also several intriguing thematic events, like “Trade Winds: From China with Love” on April 21 and “The Roaring Twenties: Berlin, Paris, New York” on June 2.

Cellist Yehuda Hanani, founder and director of Close Encounters, is the featured artist on a recent disc isn’t billed as a Close Encounters project, four out of the five recorded works were premiered by Hanani or his group since 2003. Taken together, the collection illustrates that a beautiful composer-performer collaboration has been happening in our region for some time now.

In his liner notes, Martin explains that almost all of the music is based on melodic material from songs, mostly of his own writing. That goes a long way to explain the accessible nature and emotional depth of the compositions.

The largest piece was written specifically for the CD. It’s a 30-minute long sonata for cello and piano, titled “Four Noble Truths.” Martin’s title refers to Buddhist teaching, and the music is haunted and soulful in that way that only great cello music can be.

More austere, even fraught, is the cello solo, “Recuerda.” The piece was requested by an arts patron and mutual friend of Martin and Hanani after he was given a terminal diagnosis. He wanted something to be performed at his funeral. It’s full of drones, but also references to Schumann.

Quotes from a different time a place appear in “Hollywood Variations,” also for cello and piano. The melodic source material is Leonard Rosenman’s pastoral theme from his score to “East of Eden.” There’s enough schmaltz to evoke the film, but plenty of invention and playfulness as well.

Martin’s Cuba heritage shows up in the Latin strains of “Ropa Vieja,” for cello, accordion and percussion. And coming form an earlier time in Martin’s career is Three Nocturnes. It’s the most abstract of the offerings, though Hanani infuses it with the same style and feeling that’s present throughout the disc. Pianist Walter Ponce likewise brings out fine color and articulation in all the works.

By the way, Albany Records has also released a recording of Martin’s opera “Before Night Falls,” which Premiered in Fort Worth in 2010. Based on the memoir of the late Cuban writer and dissident Reinaldo Arenas, it’s a powerful two-act piece that evokes the culturally stifling Castro as well as how in New York the AIDS epidemic mowed down a generation of gay artists. Orchestra Miami recently announced a semi-staged revival of the opera for this coming October. It’s a good choice for an orchestra, since Martin’s instrumental writing is a driving force in the fast moving drama.


Yehuda Hanani is an Israeli—American cellist who studied with Leonard Rose and Pablo Casals. Currently, he is a cello professor at the University of Cincinnati College—Conservatory of Music, a frequent soloist with major orchestras, and an international master—class teacher. He is also the artistic director of the chamber music series Close Encounters with Music,
which presents an innovative form of programming. In late August he spoke with me by phone from his home in the cool Catskill Mountains of upstate New York.

Q: Where did You grow up?

A: I grew up in Jerusalem in very idealistic times. When the new nation of Israel was born, people thought a utopian period was about to begin. Alas, that was not to be, but for a
while it seemed so. The entire atmosphere was vibrating with the arts and cultural ferment. Ancient history was back—to—back with a fresh beginning. You could walk down the street and find a biblical—era pottery shard or a coin dropped by a Crusader. It was an amazing moment when history and the present merged. Everyone I knew was a scholar, a writer, or a modern—day prophet. My next—door neighbor was the novelist Amos Oz, who used to walk me to school, and who writes about my family in his description of the old Jerusalem.

Q: Was music taught in the schools?

A: Yes, immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe who brought their culture and an incredible amount of artistic ability with them surrounded us. Israel was an island of
civilization in the desert. The atmosphere was tremendously stimulating. Can the street, you heard languages from all over the world and you could hear both Eastern and Western
music on the radio. There was, and still is, a cross—cultural stimulation that has an effect on musicians, especially composers. All my teachers had come from Europe, but they were
beginning to draw on the new Middle Eastern culture and admit it into their compositions. It was a fascinating time and place to grow up.

Q: How did you choose the cello?

A: At the age of five I was given a violin and sent for lessons. My mother was a botanist and schoolteacher. My father was a writer, and music was expected to be part of my
upbringing. After a few lessons the violin teacher came to our home and asked my parents if they were aware that I had perfect pitch. I thought that everyone who heard a note
could name it! I studied violin for three years and loved it. Then, my Russian—born aunt visited from Tel Aviv. A violinist, she was the only professional musician in the family and she
was rather autocratic. She said, “This boy will play the cello.” I will never know why. Maybe she saw something in my hands. Who knows? My parents then switched me to the cello.
Later, when I began to play concerts, she took all the credit for my success [he says with a delightful chuckle]! Behind every successful artist is either a pushy mother or an
authoritarian aunt.

Q: What did you do after high school?

A: When I was I8 I was faced with compulsory military service. Having won a national music competition, I had been heard in concert by two visitors to Israel: Leonard Bernstein
and Isaac Stern. Bernstein was treated like a god and he looked like one, too. He sent a letter to the authorities saving that I should be allowed to develop my talent as an artist
instead of being drafted. I was given a deferment that was renewed every year. Then he and Stern arranged for me to come to New York and study at the Julliard School. Stern
then became a kind of guardian. If I skipped classes in order to have more practice time, he heard about it. When I graduated, Columbia Artists, the largest artist management firm
at that time, signed me on. Before I knew it, I was traveling the world, playing concerts, making recordings, and establishing my career as an artist.

Q: Did competitions help you very much?

A: The few that I entered and won helped open some doors, such as the one that gave me the opportunity to play with the orchestra in Israel and be heard by Bernstein and Stern.
For me, however, this was not the road to maturity as a musician. My favorite artists—Casals, Szigeti, Huberman, Enescu, and Landowska—were all strongly individualistic and
original. Because they had distinctive voices and no sex appeal, they would have been flunked in the first round. It seems that the equalizing effect of not displeasing any member of
the jury results in a “one size fits all” approach to playing that carries over past the competition stage and encourages middle—of—the—road, generic interpretations. Yes, winning a
big competition may allow a young artist to make a splash for a couple of months, but to have an enduring life in music, you have to have something to say. You have to have more
than just “perfect” playing.

Q: Who were the teachers who exerted the most influence on You?

A: The last and most influential was Pablo Casals. Without question, he left the strongest imprint. Of course, by the time any student got to him, technique was taken for granted.
He did not even mention technical issues. His teaching was all about the music. He talked about nuances and interpretation, about articulation and shaping a phrase, about
understanding the structure of the piece and following its harmony.

These are aspects of making music that you can learn from any fine musician, not just a cellist. In fact, many of my mentors were not cellists. One was Artur Schnabel, whom I
heard posthumously via recordings of his Beethoven sonatas. The structural intelligence and passion of his approach, his placing the instrument entirely at the service of the music,
and his close identification with the text were exemplary and inspirational. Then there was Fischer—Dieskau, whose expressive intonation, intimacy, unfailing musical instincts, and
manipulation of the voice were something to emulate on the cello. What I gleaned was that having the instrument under control is just the beginning, not the end of the process.
The objective is not to drive the car but to know where you want to go with it. Too many people turn mastery of the instrument into an end in itself. From the start, my early
influences were marked by a holistic fusion of literature, art, music, nature, history, and the realization that everything was interconnected.

Q:. Can you mention a few of the formative experiences or powerful turning points in your artistic journey?

A: The most formative experiences involved intersecting with giants. One was playing the New York premiere of the Quartet for the End of Time with Messiaen while his wife, Yvonne
Loriod, sat teary—eyed in the audience at the 92nd Street Y. Another was spending a week with Aaron Copland when I was his soloist in the Schelomo in San Antonio and he
conducted. He was the philosopher—composer conducting a portrayal of the philosopher—king {Solomon}. There were some memorable and intimate Italian dinners during which I
tried to get him to add to the cello repertoire. It was then that he revealed to my astonishment that he had not written a note in over 40 years. He said, “I don’t know why I get
invited to conduct my music. Lenny does it so much better!”

I had an encounter with Lukas Foss, whose Capriccio for cello and piano I recorded for the first time for Koch. He was most generous in his praise. I befriended Leonard Rosenman,
the legendary Hollywood composer, who had been the great friend of James Dean and who had written the scores for his American classic films, East of Eden and Rebel Without a
Cause, as well as 90 others. This ultimately led to a new work in homage to him, Hollywood Variations, by the fabulous composer Jorge Martin. It has recently been released on
Albany Records with Walter Ponce, whom I consider to be one of the piano titans, and myself.

More powerful experiences include my introduction to the world of jazz by my son, which eventually led to collaborations with distinguished jazz musicians like accordionist Bill
Schimmel and members of the Ahmad Jamal Ensemble. In general, cultivating openness to the world, to happenstance, to the unexpected as material for musical exploration bring
about these experiences. I met one of the world’s great pipa plavers, Liu Fang, at the Beijing airport, and we are now collaborating on the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize—winning
composer Zhou Long’s piece for cello and pipa. Recently I collaborated with the great Georgian prima ballerina Nina Ananiashili at Jacob’s Pillow, and now there is an adventurous
new work for narrator, percussion, and cello that I commissioned for Sigourney Weaver and myself.

Q: How do you feel about old instruments vs. newly made ones?

A: The great Italian stringed instruments were made to deliver a particular quality of sound, not excessive volume. Sometimes when you hear one of these played, the sound is of
such exquisite beauty that it makes you want to cry. They were designed to be played at concerts in palaces and salons, not in today’s huge concert halls. The idea that instruments
should produce loud sounds came along much later. Of course, the old Italian instruments were eventually adjusted to make bigger sounds. The bridges were raised and gut strings
were replaced with metal ones. Bows had to be made much stronger. The piano grew in size and volume at the same time. For the most part, quality of the sound was unaffected,
so today we can have both great sound and ample volume.

With larger concert halls and more listeners came a rise in pitch and the call for a brighter sound as well as more volume. Tuning is often higher in Europe than it is in the United
States. Beyond a certain point I find it disturbing. The A in Bach’s time was almost a half—step lower than what is often used today. That puts more tension on the instrument and
the sound can be pinched or tight.

Q: Who made your cello?

A: David Tecchler, an Austrian who moved to Rome and constructed instruments in the Italian tradition, made my cello in 1773. It was commissioned by the Pope for his liturgical
music ensemble. Later, it passed down to the Mendelssohns. I like to take the cello out of its case and know that Felix Mendelssohn laid his eyes on it. It gives me a connection with
the music and with history.

I have several bows. One is modern and was made for me a few years ago. The others are older and they are French. It’s a peculiar thing. The best cellos are Italian and the best
bows are French. Each of my bows had a slightly different voice so I switch from one to another depending on the piece. Sometimes it’s exciting to make the change.

Q: What are your thoughts on learning a new piece from recordings?

A: Despite the instant availability of any recording, when you do that, you surrender your own relationship with the composer. You are not in dialogue with him or her. Your
relationship is with the interpreter of the piece on the recording and you are removed from the original score. That diminishes your ability to find anything that has not yet been
discovered in the music. When I give a guest master class for students who are not my own, I can easily identify which recordings they have been listening to because they imitate
slides, portamenti, vibrato, or fingerings in inappropriate places. Sometimes, perhaps to fiatter me, they copy a performance of mine. Then they are playing it the way I did some
years ago, not what I would be doing currently. Since, when I asked a student to change something, she countered with “But that’s not what you did on your disc.” I said that this
was her lesson for the day. Music is alive and changing. Today I want you to play it differently from the way I played it on my CD. Just because I did it that way some years ago does
not mean I can’t change it.

Whether the composer is alive or dead, you are collaborating with him. You cannot take a piece of great music and use it to show off your technical ability unless it was designed for
that purpose. You can play Paganini or Wienawski’s showpieces and they will make you shine as a virtuoso, but they are not overly profound. When you play Bach or Schumann you
should forget about how well you are playing and concentrate on the music. The cello is merely a tool, just as a screwdriver is. The music is the purpose. You need to have your
technique so well under control that no one notices it.

Q: What repertoire have you explored, and where do your musical affinities lie?

A: I like to embark on two types of adventures—to commission new works, and to uncover lost ones, like the Alkan Sonate en Concert, as grand and eccentric a work as you will
find. I made the pioneering record of that after a midnight visit to the New York apartment of the pianist who first championed Alkan’s works, Raymond Lewenthal, who was almost
as eccentric as Alkan himself. When he brought the score, he arrived in a black cape and insisted we close the curtains, in case anyone else out there might be thinking about
recording this monumentally difficult piece.

The Turkish composer Ilhan Mimaroglu, who was also a producer for Atlantic Records, introduced me to Nicolai Miaskovskv and I made the first or second recordings of his two cello
sonatas. I championed the works of Leo Ornstein, another genius, who died recently at the age of 108. Among the new works are Bernard Rands’s Cello Concerto, which we
premiered in Aspen and in Europe with the BBC Welsh Orchestra, and the “Jamestown” Concerto, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the first American settlement. That
came about when composer William Perry told me about the discovery of the original, fully orchestrated version Virgil Thompson Cello Concerto, which surfaced in the Yale
archives. So we coupled that with the William Schuman Song of Orpheus and Bill wrote a narrative in sound of the Pocahontas story. I recorded it with Ireland’s RTE National
Symphony Orchestra. One of Osvaldo Golijov’s signature works, How Slow the Wind, for string quartet and soprano, was written for me and premiered at Ozawa Hall with Dawn
Upshaw. It has entered the repertory and Golijov liked it so much he orchestrated it and rewrote it for other instrumental combinations.

One time when my wife and I were battling the building of a cement plant in the Hudson VaIIev, we commissioned John Musto to write River Songs, a piece about man’s relationship
to nature. Whether it was the power of music or a brilliantly mobilized community, the plant was defeated. And now, I have taken up the cause of Eduard Franck. My dear colleague
James Tocco told me about Franck, one of Mendelssohn’s few students. A distinguished composer and teacher, Franck came from a most interesting family. His brother had been
one of the most central intellectuals of mid lath—century Europe, a friend of Chopin and Wagner.

Eduard Franck had the singular privilege of dining with Mendelssohn every day for a few years in Dusseldorf. His great—great grandson sent me a copy of his ancestor’s
compositions, some of which hadn’t seen the light of day in 150 years. We gave the Franck trio its first performance in 2009, along with a marvelous sextet, and in 2011 we
premiered his cello sonata at the Frick Museum in New York. It’s such a high—level work I’m sure it will soon be part of the cello repertoire. James, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and I just
recorded an all—Franck CD for Naxos. It’s thrilling to resurrect works that have been overlooked by history.

Paul Schoenfield is another composer whom we have commissioned. I first met him when we were both students at the Marlboro Festival and he was a fabulous pianist. Now he is one of America’s major composers. He wrote the dazzling clarinet, cello, and piano trio called Refractions in anticipation of the Mozart anniversary. He ingested the basic Mozartean
vocabulary and then went spinning off into Klezmerland and beyond. We have since recorded it for Naxos with James Tocco and Alex Fiterstein. Paul also plays his Six British Folk Songs with me.

Q: Where are your former students now?

A: They are all over the world. Some are soloists like Alban Gerhard. The more individual players with an intellectual bent are professors of cello at universities. Some former
students are in major orchestras. Cine just became first cello in the Buenos Aires Philharmonic. Many are in chamber groups and a few have opted for other professions but maintain
their proficiency as amateur players. A Tokyo student is a jazz cellist. Linda Ronstadt’s nephew, Michael, did his master’s degree with me at the University of Cincinnati College—
Conservatory of Music, but professionally he plays country music on cello and guitar and sings. Julie Adams, the well—known crossover cellist, was a student. I encourage students
to do anything creative that appeals to them with no boundaries set down.

Q: What is Close Encounters With Music?

A: It’s an innovative concert series that I founded over 20 years ago when I realized today’s audiences, less musically knowledgeable than in previous generations, would be
receptive to having “curated“ concerts where a theme was woven into the fabric of the program with commentary to lead them through. At the time, it was a novel format. We are
based in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts and have presented concerts in cities across the U.S. and Canada including Chicago, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Omaha, Calgarv,
Kansas City, and the cities of South Florida.

Currently, Close Encounters presents concerts each season in Scottsdale, Arizona; in the Berkshires; and at the Frick Collection in New York City. The themes aren’t necessarily
musical but they are explored through music. One of the programs for 2012 is The Roaring Twenties: Berlin, Paris, New York. There we explore the Entartete artists, composers
whose “degenerate“ music was banned just a few years later by the Nazis and whose careers and lives were interrupted by the cataclysmic events that followed.

Q: Do you manage to have anything of a private life?

A: Yes, I do. My wife, Hannah, is a former journalist who has written for many important publications including the Los Angeles Times. In the past, she covered events and profiled
artists. Now she helps me organize Close Encounters with Music series, with our commissioning program, educational arm, research, and publications. Our themes involve many
different fields, not just music. She does not come with me everywhere, but we try to be together as much as possible. We have a grown son who is a good amateur pianist. He
saw how crazy the life of a professional musician is and decided to go in the opposite direction! We are former urbanites who now live in the country surrounded by deer, wild
turkeys, and the occasional bear or coyote.

Q: How do you see the future of classical music?

A: There will always be music as a reflection of human experience. It is a deep need and has been with us since prehistorv. Some instruments will get antiquated, new ones will be
invented, concert formats will change, MP3s will be succeeded by some other technology. But the thirst for organized sound as an expression of our striving, our desires, our
imagination, and our dreams is inextinguishable.

E. FRANCK Piano Trio, op. Cello Sonata, op. 42. Violin Sonata, op. 23 James Tocco (pn); Shuel Ashkenasi (vn); Yehuda Hanani (vc) NAXOS 8.572480 (79:54)

Eduard Franck {1817—93) was born into a wealthy and artistically motivated Prussian banking family. He took music lessons from childhood and often met the famous musicians who
were guests in his parents’ home. When he was sufficiently advanced as a pianist, he studied with Felix Mendelssohn. Eventually he began to play concerts and to teach. He taught
piano and music theory at the Rhenish Music School in Cologne. He also directed a chorus there, and his presentation of the Beethoven piano concertos captivated local critics. In
1BSS he resigned his position in Cologne and tried unsuccessfully to succeed Robert Schumann as Kapellmeister in Düsseldorf. Moving to Bern, Switzerland, he became director of a
new conservatory. Later, he moved back to Prussia and became a professor at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin.

Franck seems to have had a difficult personality and it probably accounts for his failure to publish many of his compositions until the last years of his life. He was a perfectionist who
would not allow the light of day to illuminate any piece of music that did not meet his demanding standard. If he thought a note was out of place he laid the work aside for later
perusal. He felt no pressure to be prolific. Thus, his output was small but most carefully constructed. He didn’t advance the formats of his time but used his fertile imagination within

Although you have no difficulty in knowing that his music belongs to the Romantic era, you can recognize his individuality when you are hearing one of his pieces for the first time.
Because he has such a good command of musical structures, his imagination can fly freely within them. He makes use of both simple as well as more unusual melodies and he
develops them in such a manner that his listeners’ attention is propelled into the core of the piece. He never seems to fail in getting his message across.

The opening movement of the op. 29 Piano Trio is marked allegro moderato con espressione, and emotional expression is what James Tocco, Shmuel Ashkenasi, and Yehuda Hanani
give it. The strings play deliciously melodic lines while the piano weaves its harmonies around them. The second movement, a scherzo, begins with a bright, sunny theme announced
by the piano. After some intricate designs by the strings, Franck introduces a very simple melody. He seems to enjoy taking very easy first statements and working them into
tapestries of aural design, as is heard in the following movements. He never writes easy music for more than a minute, however, and his piano line, in particular, is extremely difficult.
Not that it bothers Tocco, for whom the most intricate music seems easy.

The second of the three pieces played on this disc is the Cello Sonata, op. 42. Audite has a rendition of it played by cellist Thomas Blees and pianist Roswitha Gediga, who do not
seem to have the total command of the entire work that Hanani and Tocco do. Also, the Naxos sound engineer, Chip Reardon, made sure the players were truly equal partners in
both this piece and the following sonata for violin and piano. The 2008 Bella Musical release with violinist Florian Meierott and pianist Thomas Hans has some rather choppy playing in
the faster sections, so I much prefer the unfailingly smooth tone production of Ashkenasi and Tocco.

All the instrumentalists on this excellent Naxos recording play with consummate artistry. Ashkenasi maintains his opulent tone throughout even the most difficult passages. Hanani,
playing a cello that once belonged to Mendelssohn’s brother, may be repeating music that his instrument had played more than a century earlier. In any case, he brings out the
bottom line with full rich tones and he soars into the higher notes with exquisite finesse.

The engineering was well thought—out and provides the listener with the ambiance of a small, not overly resonant concert hall. This composer’s music has been overlooked for much
too long and his chamber music belongs in any fine collection. Maria Nockin

This article originally appeared in Issue 35:3 (Jan/Feb 2012) of Fanfare Magazine.


And here is another side of William Perry. The Jamestown Concerto (2006) begins with a beautiful solo cello segment that sits halfway between solo cadenza and folkish musing, described as a “cello overture” in Douglas Bruce’s notes. Written to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first permanent colony in America in Jamestown, Virginia (1607), it is a poignant work that integrates Perry’s trademark filmic qualities into a concert framework. It also includes musical material derived from a madrigal published in 1501 by John Milton (father of the poet). There is a detailed program (trumpets in the second movement, “Settlement Along the River,” announce the arrival of Captain John Smith to quell an uprising, for example), but it is one that strikes me as optional. Yehuda Hanani is a most eloquent soloist. My colleague Lynn René Bayley found this work rather wanting in her review (Fanfare 32:3). I find the work’s almost childlike sense of wonder and its clear impression of ongoing narrative, beautifully scored, rather compelling. The playful “Pocahontas in London” fourth movement is enchanting; the fifth bustles while faithfully evoking time and place. Skillful, eminently musical, and poignant pretty much sum up this piece. 

Good to see William Schuman’s music here, too. The rest of the music will get less of a say on the grounds that it appears in the context of an article on Perry, but it is good to hear Schuman’s A Song of Orpheus (premiered 1962), especially prefaced by a reading (by Jane Alexander) of Shakespeare’s “Orpheus with his Lute.” I agree with Bayley on every count here (except that I actually do like the idea of the reading of the poem). Superbly atmospheric music, yet at the same time sophisticated, especially in harmonic terms. Finally, Virgil Thomson’ Cello Concerto, a remarkably strong and powerful work, is given a proud and muscular account here by Hanani (which is not to underplay Hanani’s deftness in the finale). 

The placing of Perry here is important. He justly takes his place with two giants of American music. Colin Clarke