Celebrating Mendelssohn…and Discovering Eduard Franck! Close Encounters With Music Schedules American Premieres: Works of Forgotten 19th Century Composer Eduard Franck, Mendelssohn Student and Colleague. 200th Anniversary of Felix’s Birth Prompts Revival and Re-evaluation

Image of Yahuda Hanani Playing the Cello

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) –To coincide with the Mendelssohn anniversary year of 2009 (born February 3, 1809 in Hamburg) Berkshire-based chamber music organization Close Encounters With Music is planning festivities in several cities, beginning with tributes to the Mendelssohn inner circle at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall, that will include works by Clara and Robert Schumann, Fannie Mendelssohn, Frederic Chopin and the all but unknown Eduard Franck, a prolific composer whose works have not been in circulation for over a hundred years.

A pair of concerts, Celebrating Mendelssohn…and Discovering Eduard Franck I & II, on Wednesday, February 25 and Thursday, March 5, 2009, will introduce several of his works to the American public—the masterful string Sextet No. 1 in E-flat major, op. 41; the piano trio in E-flat major, op. 22; and a selection of his brilliant solo piano pieces. Joining artistic director and cellist Yehuda Hanani are violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi and Yehnonatan Berick; pianist James Tocco; and the Avalon String Quartet.

Eduard Franck’s background in many ways paralleled that of Mendelssohn himself. He was born in 1817 to a privileged Jewish banking family in Breslau that entertained the luminaries of the age: Heine, Humboldt, the Mendelssohns and Wagner. An accomplished pianist, prolific composer and renowned teacher, his professional circle overlapped with that of Mendelssohn and included the Schumanns and Chopin.

“I am honored to be part of the revival of such a worthy composer, and to rectify an unfortunate historical omission,” says Yehuda Hanani, who was introduced to first editions of Franck’s chamber music scores by his descendants in Germany. “Whether because he published his works late in life, or because a post-Enlightenment anti-Semitism contributed to the neglect of his output, his is a voice that should be heard.” Mr. Hanani was also part of the revival of the eccentric-mystic Charles-Valentin Alkan, and made the first recording ever of his monumental cello/piano work Sonate de Concert, and was at the center of the re-discovery of the music of avant-gardist Leo Ornstein, whose cello/piano sonata he recorded for Koch International.

According to Hanani, “Franck’s eloquent and elegantly-crafted music gives a broader scope, deepens our understanding of the Zeitgeist that produced the German Romantic composers preceding Brahms and Strauss, and provides a glimmer of chromaticism and what was to follow. Hearing his music, there’s an immediate flash of recognition as to where he fits in. In addition to the tremendous artistic satisfaction, there is also the thrill of reinstating a valuable figure who has been unjustly sidelined and is now beginning to receive his due.”

The newly-discovered Franck works will be framed by the “other” Mendelssohn Trio, in C minor; Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano; Chopin’s darkly romantic Cello Sonata; Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet; and solo piano works by Fanny Mendelssohn to demonstrate the affinities and gestalt of this group. “The idea is to recreate for these two evenings the intimate atmosphere of the 19th century salon, of which Close Encounters With Music is a modern-day version,” says Hanani.

Celebrating Mendelssohn I & II, will be repeated during the 2009 season in Cincinnati, the Berkshires, Scottsdale, and at the Great Lakes Festival in Michigan.


Merkin Concert Hall
Goodman House
129 West 67th Street
New York, NY 10023
Box Office: (212) 501-3330


James Tocco
“…Has the big technique and the expansive temperament … A knockout performance in which the musical values were not overshadowed by the keyboard pyrotechnics. Mr. Tocco took the piece to the limit…The final fugue was built with perfect logic, but logic did not prevent it from exploding in a grandly Romantic style…” —The New York Times

Catapulted to prominence as a student of Claudio Arrau and first-prize winner in the ARD International Munich Competition when he replaced Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli as soloist with the Vienna Festival, pianist James Tocco enjoys an international career, performing with the most notable orchestras and conductors of our day. He has appeared with the Cleveland and Minnesota orchestras; the Berlin, London, Hong Kong and Munich philharmonics, and London, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, National and NHK (Japan) symphonies. Regarded as a supreme exponent of American music, he has recorded the music of Bernstein, Corigliano, MacDowell, and Charles Tomlinson Griffes to great critical acclaim. He is Eminent Scholar/Artist in Residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music as well as artistic director of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival.

Shmuel Ashkenasi
“A masterly technique. Warm, clear and strong.”—The Japan Times

Founder and first violinist of the Vermeer Quartet, Shmuel Ashkenasi captured top prizes at the 1962 Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, the Merriweather Post Competition in Washington, and the Queen Elizabeth Competition in Belgium. As a soloist he has toured the Soviet Union and concretizes each year throughout Europe, Israel and the Far East, performing with American orchestras such as the Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, National, Atlanta, and Los Angeles philharmonics, as well as those of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Zurich, Rotterdam, Geneva and Stockholm. Among his solo recordings are the Paganini Violin Concertos with the Vienna Symphony for Deutsche Grammophon. He holds posts of Professor of Violin in Lubeck, Germany, and Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts and serves on the faculty of the Curtis Institute.

Yehuda Hanani
“One of the most polished performers of the post-Starker generation, and a consistently expressive artist.”—The New York Times

Yehuda Hanani has performed as a soloist with the Chicago, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St. Paul Chamber, Berlin Radio, Israel Philharmonic, Puerto Rico, BBC Welsh, Irish National, Jerusalem, Lithuanian Chamber, and Seoul symphony orchestras, among others, and he is a frequent guest at numerous festivals in the United States, Europe and Australia. Hanani has collaborated with music luminaries such as Aaron Copland, Leon Fleisher, Itzhak Perlman, Christoph Eschenbach, and David Robertson, and he has commissioned, premiered and recorded numerous works by leading contemporary composers. Professor of cello at Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Hanani has released CDs of Vivaldi and Bach that have become best-selling standard setters. His recording for Naxos of three American cello concertos (Virgil Thomson, William Schuman, William Perry) will be released in August.

Yehonatan Berick
“Delicate balance and subtlety…combined with Devil-may-care expression and dynamism”—Detroit Free Press

Yehonatan Berick, soloist, recitalist, chamber musician (violin and viola), and pedagogue, was a prizewinner at the 1993 Naumburg Competition and a recipient of the 1996-97 Montreal Prix Opus. He has performed with the Quebec, Winnipeg, Jerusalem, and Haifa symphonies, and the Israel, Cincinnati, Montreal, and Manitoba chamber orchestras. He has appeared in recital with such pianists as James Tocco, Louis Lortie, and Stephen Prutsman, and has collaborated in chamber music performances with artists including members of the Guarneri Quartet. Berick’s festival credits include Marlboro, Ravinia, Seattle, Great Lakes, Moritzburg, Strings in the Mountains and Bowdoin, and he is a member of Musicians from Marlboro, the Lortie-Berick-Lysy Piano Trio and the Huberman String Quartet.

Avalon String Quartet
“One of the most exciting young string quartets in America”—The Washington Post

Formed in 1995 at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Avalon Quartet came to the fore after participating in Isaac Stern’s Chamber Music Workshop at Carnegie Hall in 1997, which led to invitations to perform at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and Stern’s Chamber Music Encounters in Jerusalem. They are top-prize winners of the ARD Munich Competition Concert Artists Guild, and the Newport Chamber Music Festival’s Channel Classics Prize led to their critically acclaimed recording Dawn To Dusk. They are in residence at Northern Illinois University, a position formerly occupied by the distinguished Vermeer Quartet and perform annually in Chicago and DeKalb, as well as at Alice Tully, the 92nd St Y and Carnegie Hall in New York; the Library of Congress in Washington, DC; at Caramoor, Mostly Mozart and Ravinia festivals; and at the La Jolla Chamber Music Society and the Isabella Gardner Museum.


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, Lera Auerbach, Kenji Bunch, John Musto, among others—to create important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon. A core of brilliant performers includes pianists James Tocco, Adam Neiman, Walter Ponce and Emma Tahmizian; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman and Toby Appel; harpsichordist Lionel Party; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Amy Burton, Jennifer Aylmer, Robert White, Lucille Beer and William Sharp; the Vermeer, Amernet, Muir, Manhattan, Avalon, 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.

“Great music played with great heart.”—Berkshire Eagle

“There’s a palpable mystique about these Close Encounters concerts.”—Berkshire Eagle

“The program provided stellar performances…played with passion and pathos…” —Arizona Republic

“The Close Encounters classical music series is well known for its adventurous, innovative programming. Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani struck gold….The performers were rewarded with a highly enthusiastic ovation.”— WAMC Northeast Radio

“Must see concerts…the mind-and heart-engaging Close Encounters With Music Series!”— Berkshire Living