Close Encounters with Music 24th Season Offers its Signature Mix of Innovative Programs October 24 Opening Features Piano Titan Walter Ponce Performing Epic Brahms and Dvorak Piano Quartets; Celebrity Talks Fireside Concert; Collaborations, Celebrations October-June

Photograph of Walter Ponce

(Great Barrington, MA)  The Berkshires’ premiere chamber music organization, Close Encounters With Music, opens its season October 24, 6 PM at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center with two epic works by Brahms and Dvořák, two giants whose lives intersected, both nurtured by the traditions of Central Europe. Brahms’ G minor Piano Quartet Op. 25, with its animated Hungarian idioms and whirlwind coda; and the Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major Op. 87, one of Dvořák’s most sublime works, are symphonic in scope, with unbuttoned, folksy finales.  The two composers, friends and fellow admirers during their lifetime, stand side by side with these powerful masterpieces that display the seemingly endless inventiveness of both in architecture, melody, instrumental interplay, and sheer sonic beauty.

Artistic director Yehuda Hanani says of the juxtaposition of pieces:  “Dvořák’s forty chamber music compositions are a wonder.  One of the great melodists of the century, he incorporated ideas and techniques from everybody:  Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, and Mendelssohn.  But the greatest influence was Brahms.  Being rooted in Bohemian folklore, though, he lightens up Brahmsian textures and deep probing, and wipes the frown from the German master.” 

Joining Hanani to play some of the most vivacious and appealing music in the repertoire are pianist Walter Ponce (“Delectable playing done with an electric crackle that Liszt himself would have applauded –Chicago Tribune); violinist Ara Gregorian, who made his orchestra debut with the Boston Pops; and violinist/violist Xiao-Dong Wang, who has appeared as soloist with the Royal Philharmonic in London and the London Mozart Players. 

Close Encounters With Music, continues to expand its original programming of classical, contemporary and cutting-edge music. The 2015-2016 season will be one of celebration and discovery, featuring world-renowned musicians and extraordinary new faces. Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani has led the series since its founding, providing entertaining, erudite commentary that puts the composers and their times in perspective to enrich and enlighten the concert experience. Each concert is framed by an introduction before the music, and is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception with an informal “talk-back” and an opportunity to meet the musicians.

Artistic director Yehuda Hanani is internationally renowned for performances with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, BBC Welsh Symphony, Irish National Symphony and many others. He has been a guest at Aspen, Chautauqua, Marlboro, Yale at Norfolk, Round Top (TX), Blue Hill, Bowdoin, Great Lakes, Ottawa Festival and Finland Festival, among many others, and has collaborated with fellow musicians including Leon Fleisher, Aaron Copland, Christoph Eschenbach, David Robertson, Itzhak Perlman, Dawn Upshaw, Yefim Bronfman, Eliot Fisk, and the American and Tokyo quartets. In New York City, Yehuda Hanani has appeared as soloist at Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, Alice Tully, The Frick, and the Metropolitan Museum’s Grace Rainey Rodger Auditorium. A prolific recording artist, his pioneering recording of the Alkan Cello Sonata received a Grand Prix du Disque nomination.  As founder and artistic director of Close Encounters With Music, he has been at the forefront of presenting thematic concerts with commentary in cities across the U.S.  He is professor of cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and artistic director of the Catskill High Peaks Festival.  His broadcasts on Northwest Radio WAMC’s “Classical Music According to Yehuda” with Dr. Alan Chartock reach thousands of listeners weekly.

Grand Piano Quartets—Brahms and Dvořák
Saturday, October 24, 6 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center Tickets: $45 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $25 (Balcony)