CEWM’s 32nd Season Sparkles and Vibrates!

Close Encounters With Music’s 32nd Season sparkles and vibrates with brilliant performers and thought-provoking themes in Great Barrington, Mass.

Season performances include Celtic Baroque Band Makaris in a Bach Family Concert with an Irish Twist and the story of Biblical Esther from a feminist perspective in a new work…and so much more!

Makaris Celtic Band 12 musicians holding lyres, flutes, cellos standing against a stone wall

This season offers the widest swath of genres, styles, composers and instruments—and of course, the great performers who share their brilliant artistry, including pianists Adam Golka, Fabio Bidini, Ieva Jokubaviciute, Max Levinson and Michael Chertock; violinists Giora Schmidt, Ara Gregorian, Hye-Jin Kim, Xiao-Dong Wang, Itamar Zorman;  vocalists John Viscardi, Julia Bentley and Emily Marvosh; the Avalon String Quartet, and Celtic Band Makaris. 

The Avalon String Quartet
Avalon String Quartet: © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

Artistic director Yehuda Hanani is welcoming audience members new to the Berkshires as well as long-time residents to join for intimate programs with outsize talent, in the beautiful landmark Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center “to regain a sense of Community through the inspiring and healing effects of the best music ever penned—from over 300 years ago to almost yesterday, with the ink just drying”!

Just a few of this season’s themes are explorations of what constitutes “virtuosity” in art; the historic allure of Vienna as a nexus of music and art and destination for composers, painters and groundbreaking thinkers; and cross-cultural synergy and its enriching effects. Featured works include Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachmusik,” Beethoven’s “Moonlight” Sonata, and the incomparably beautiful Dvorak and Brahms Piano Quintets. 

All audience members are invited to an “Afterglow” reception following each concert to meet the performers and one another!

In addition to offering live in-person concerts, curated online performances will be available to accommodate geographically remote listeners and newly expanded virtual followers.


Tickets, $52 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $28 (Balcony) and $15 for students, are available through the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center or by calling 413-528-0100. Subscriptions are $250 ($225 for seniors) for the series of 7 concerts (a 35% savings!). Season subscriptions are available at [email protected] and through our website.

“CEWM patrons have learned that sooner or later they’ll be blindsided by a performance so sublime it will defy explanation.”

—  The Berkshire Edge

(For Calendar listings, see below.)

2023-24 SEASON

Virtue and Virtuosity

Sunday, November 5, 2023 4 PM

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

The words are intricately related but diverge. Virtuosity: music that glorifies the possibilities of the instrument and the prowess of the performer—that titillates and stuns the audience in the Romantic tradition of Paganini.  It’s the violinist tight-rope walking on the strings, performing impossible feats, stretching the capabilities of the instrument, creating pacts with the Devil. Sarasate and Saint Saëns will dazzle (his gorgeous Rondo Capriccioso, a minefield for the violinist, will be performed on the cello, exponentially more challenging!). And introducing Russian/Ukrainian composer Nikolai Kapustin, whose Preludes offer a “Red and Hot” fusion of jazz and classical forms.  Pyrotechnics and acrobatics? Mastery of content and form? Craft plus magic as the ideal… According to Rodin, the greatest virtuosity is when you don’t notice it. The program touches on some of the most fundamental questions about the nature of art and culminates with the emotionally compelling and ineffably beautiful Brahms Piano Trio Op. 8.

Adam Golka, piano; Giora Schmidt, violin; Yehuda Hanani, cello; Philip Thompson, cello

Nocturne—Night and Dreams

Sunday, December 3, 2023 4 PM

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

Nuances of the night are explored in this multi-faceted program. Release from the brightness of daylight, from consciousness into sleep and dreaminess, the night’s seductive, mysterious potion-like allure has fascinated artists throughout the ages. Lullabies celebrate repose, the restful charm; serenades celebrate love.  Other works mark the fear of darkness, the unseen and what may lurk beneath the veil of night.  Composers from Mozart and Schubert to Borodin and Bernstein have been transfixed, lulled, soothed and aroused.  Beethoven evokes the enchantment of the moon in his iconic “Moonlight” Sonata; Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is a perennial favorite and will be performed in its original scoring. Lieder by Schumann, Debussy, Fauré, arias from Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet and selections from favorite musicals (West Side Story and Man of La Mancha) demonstrate the universality of the theme. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, only the darkness of the night reveals all the stars—in the Heavens and on stage!

Fabio Bidini, piano; John Viscardi, baritone; Kobi Malkin and Grace Park, violin; Luke Fleming, viola; Lizzie Burns, double bass; Yehuda Hanani, cello

The Art of the String Quartet—The Avalon

Sunday, February 11, 2024 4 PM

Saint James Place, Great Barrington

 The notable Avalon returns with another Berkshire premiere, “For Such a Time as This,” a retelling of the biblical Esther story for string quartet and vocalist, from a feminist perspective. Composer Stacy Garrop’s (recent commissions from the Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Louisiana symphony orchestras) intent is to remind us “we each possess agency to make changes happen in our lives, to act upon injustices, and leave the world a better place.” Mendelssohn’s Quartet No. 2 pulsates with young love before landing in fairyland with a shimmering scherzo right out of Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Puccini’s verismo-style “Chrysanthemums,” a seldom-performed gem, begins the concert.

Julia Bentley, narrator/mezzo-soprano, Avalon String Quartet: Blaise Magniere, violin; Marie Wang, violin; Anthony Devroye, viola; Cheng-Hou Lee, cello

“The Avalon—drop-dead gorgeous playing” – Classics Today

Celtic Baroque Band Makaris—A Bach Family Concert with an Irish Twist

Sunday, March 17, 2024 4 PM

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

In his dance suites, J. S. Bach ventures into Spanish sarabandes, French bourrées and British gigues.  He and family members delighted in arranging Celtic and Scottish folk music.  They will be joined by Beethoven and Haydn, who also forayed into Irish folk music with their own arrangements. Makaris formed in 2018 to explore the broad musical heritage of Scotland and the following year released its first disc, Wisps in the Dell, to critical international acclaim (“Absolutely wonderful…one of the very best releases of 2019” – MusicWeb International).  A makar (pl. makaris) was a royal court troubadour of medieval Scotland and the program provides a lush sampling from the ensemble’s collection. “You can’t help but feel like you’ve suddenly traveled back in time and are enjoying a tankard of old Scottish ale inside a seedy establishment.” – Classical Music Sentinel

Fiona Gillespie, soprano; Caitlin Hedge, violin; Ben Matus, Irish whistle, bassoon and bagpipes; Elliot Figg, harpsichord and organ; Kivie Cahn-Lipman, cello; Doug Ballilett, bass; Liv Castor, harp; Paul Morton, theorbo and guitar

Something Borrowed, Something Blue—Cross-Cultural Synergy!

Sunday, April 14, 2024 4 PM

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

The Romans appropriated the entirety of classical Greek culture, and the Renaissance rediscovered and revitalized it.  Then came Rodin and Greek Revival in American architectural style.  An Egyptomania craze gripped 19th century Europe and found its way into operas (Aida, Samson and Delilah), couture (harem pants as high fashion), architectural idioms, decorative arts, music and dance (arabesques).  Culinary arts, fashion (remember Issey Miyake?), painting, furniture design – we are all enriched, stimulated and invigorated by borrowed influences. An afternoon of Gershwin, Max Bruch (German composer uses synagogue “Kol Nidrei” prayer), Cesar Cui (Russian composer writes “Orientale”), Ravel’s “Habanera,” Haydn Trio (Gypsy movement) and more.  When the main stream gets tired, foreign tributaries recharge it!

Michael Chertock, piano; Itamar Zorman, violin; Yehuda Hanani, cello

Annual Luncheon Musicale Benefit

Sunday, May 5, 2024 12PM

At a Private Club in Lenox, Mass.

Celebrate the Salon in the Gilded Age elegance at a private Berkshires club. The scintillating atmosphere of the 19th century institution that helped promote artists, painters and musicians as the intelligentsia gathered to exchange ideas, enhanced by gaiety and ambience. Savor a superb lunch and support Close Encounters With Music. La vie est belle!

Reserve the date! Tickets will go on sale in March.

Café Vienna — “Nervous Splendor”

Sunday, May 19, 2024 4 PM

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

The imperial “City of Song” has played an essential role as a leading European cultural center, hosting major personalities in the development of music, as well as literature, painting, psychiatry and intellectual thought, from the 16th to 20th centuries.  As in the architecture, musical styles that sprang up are a mix of Baroque, Classical, Art Nouveau, Modernist and sleek contemporary.  During the 19th century, the café became a meeting place for the creative set in town.  Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Brahms, Johan Strauss Jr., Mahler, Korngold, all of whom are represented on the program, could be found in their favorite coffee houses, penning compositions while greeting the likes of Gustav Klimt, Arthur Schnitzler, Stefan Zweig, Rilke, Freud, Kafka, Werfel, or Wittgenstein.  This program takes a cross-section of Viennese musical modes—from operetta to waltz, Beethoven’s Piano Trio which spins on a popular song by Weigl, to Schubert’s sublime testament to his beloved métier, “An die Musik.”  And of course, the quintessential café music of Fritz Kreisler, “Caprice Viennois.”  In charm, verve, and artistic sophistication, Vienna’s past is unsurpassed.

Ieva Jokubaviciute, piano; Xiao-Dong Wang, violin; Emily Marvosh, mezzo-soprano; Yehuda Hanani, cello

Gala Concert: Great Piano Quintets

Sunday, June 9, 2024 4 PM

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

Dvořák’s sublime Piano Quintet in A Major occupies a lofty place in the chamber music canon, at the same elevation as Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 34.  Simply put, both works are majestic, symphonic in scope, and invite the listener into a lost world of powerful beauty, profundity, and nobility of sentiments, peppered with folk tunes and polkas.  Dvořák admired Brahms, Brahms encouraged and mentored Dvořák. The combination of string quartet and piano lends the quintet a sonic grandeur as it joins two self-sufficient forces in an ideal partnership.  An all-star ensemble that shares the stage with artistic director Yehuda Hanani includes Max Levinson (“a brilliant American pianist…who touches the listener deeply and often—Los Angeles Times) and violist Jordan Bak (“a bright commanding presence…a rising star”—Boston Musical Intelligencer) making his CEWM debut. So concludes Season 32 of Close Encounters—bookended by the most miraculous output of Johannes Brahms and with Dvořák’s folkloric genius, spontaneity, and vitality.

Max Levinson, piano; Ara Gregorian and Hye-Jin Kim, violin; Jordan Bak, viola; Yehuda Hanani, cello

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC stands at the intersection of music, art, and the vast richness of various cultural traditions. Entertaining, erudite, lively commentary puts the composers and their times in perspective to enrich and enlighten your concert experience.

Join our community of friends and patrons as we continue our tradition of bringing together sublime chamber music, distinguished performers and musical commentary, all in convivial settings. Share the excitement of world premiere performances and meet some of the most original and influential figures in contemporary classical music, as well as up-and-coming stars of tomorrow. And to accommodate our newly expanded virtual followers, we are also offering a virtual pass to a curated online selection of performances.

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS WITH MUSIC supports the renaissance of the Southern Berkshires by presenting six concerts this season at the landmark Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Situated in the heart of Great Barrington’s historic district, the Mahaiwe offers modern comfort in the nostalgic atmosphere of a 100-year-old theater. A seventh performance is held at the acoustically superb Saint James Place. Join the growing number of culture enthusiasts who converge from the Berkshires, Hudson Valley, Northwest Connecticut, New York City and Boston for each Close Encounters event! Contributing Benefactors and Endowers are invited to a special gala dinner following the June concert (see Ticket Order form).

“…To experience the finest music ever written, presented by leading musicians of the day, in the inviting atmosphere of the Berkshires, is the best of all possible worlds. . . The quality of Lincoln Center with an intimacy that exceeds it….”



Close Encounters With Music

Post Office Box 34

Great Barrington, MA 01230

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e-mail: [email protected]  

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