Close Encounters with Music Launches 26th Anniversary with its Signature Mix of Innovative Programs- Season Starts Strong with Titans of Chamber Music October 21 Finishing with a Dazzling Leonard Bernstein Tribute June 9, Celebrity Talks, Mid-Winter Fireside Concert; Commissions, Collaborations, Celebrations All Season

26th Season of Close Encounters with Music Press Release

(Great Barrington, MA…) Embarking on its 26th year of presenting outstanding chamber music with lively commentary, the Berkshires’ premier chamber music organization Close Encounters With Music moves into its second quarter-century with a new season of commemorations and discoveries, world-renowned musicians and extraordinary new faces, and continued expansion of original programming of classical, contemporary and cutting-edge music.

Close Encounters returns with its customary artistic vigor, crystalline focus and fresh look at our great musical heritage, old and new. 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. “We have created a rare cultural zone we call Close Encounters With Music, with innovative concerts, outstanding colleagues, and a sumptuous menu of the best music of our classical canon.”  Yehuda Hanani invites all music appreciators to become a part of the community of CEWM, which fills the calendar during the Berkshire “off-season” each month October 21 through June 9.  Each concert is framed by an introduction before the music, and is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception with an informal “talk-back” and opportunity to meet the musicians. Venues include the landmark Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, the newly renovated Saint James Place in Great Barrington and Edith Wharton’s The Mount in Lenox.

Season highlights include: a musical chronicle of the darkness and depth of modern Russian history by the Ariel String Quartet (Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Shostakovitch); an Italian holiday showcase with the Amernet Quartet performing festive works by Puccini, Vivaldi and Hugo Wolf; the extraordinary countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (“A remarkable gift for intimate communication…he brought tears to my eyes.”—New York Times); andthe Berkshires debut of violin virtuoso Soovin Kim. Pianists Roman Rabinovich, Michael Chertock and Soyeon Kate Lee return as does the dynamic ACRONYM String Band, shining a spotlight on forgotten Baroque masterpieces in an intriguing program titled “The Faux and the Fabulous.”  Closing the calendar (“Lenny at 100—Feel the BERNstein!”) is a gala celebration of the genius of Leonard Bernstein, who taught and performed for fifty years at Tanglewood. And Close Encounters With Music continues its talk series, Conversations With… stimulating afternoons of music, literature and exchanges of ideas with notable performers, critics, authors, and cultural personages.  Author and scholar Mitchell Cohen explores the “The Politics of Opera” (the title of his new book, just published by Princeton University Press), and Russian expert Timothy Sergay takes us on a survey of Russian film music.  From October through June, it’s a season NOT TO BE MISSED!

For Calendar listings, see below.

2017-2018 SEASON

The Titans:  Schumann and Brahms Piano Quintets
Saturday, October 21, 6 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $27 (Balcony), Students $15

The season opens Saturday, October 21, at 6 PM with two works that take us to the pinnacle of chamber music in a pairing of Brahms’s Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34 with that of his champion, and originator of the new genre, Robert Schumann’s breakthrough Piano Quintet. Combining the piano and the string quartet had never been tried, but in the space of only a few weeks in 1842, Schumann wrote the legendary piece that influenced countless followers. Both quintets are on the short list of masterworks—symphonic in scale, potent, flashy, and bursting with harmonic and melodic opulence and rhythmic variety. Other common denominators: A sense of inspiration is embedded in each, as is a sense of the ever-present Clara, to whom Schumann’s work is dedicated. These genre-bending works alternate between quasi-symphonic and more properly chamber-like elements to keep you captivated from start to finish…as will the all-star cast of performers. 
Soyeon Kate Lee, piano; Irina Muresanu and Peter Zazofsky, violin; Michael Strauss, viola; Yehuda Hanani,cello

Souvenir de Florence—An Italian Holiday Celebration
Saturday, December 9, 6 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $27 (Balcony), Students $15

The Italian fixation that runs deep in the collective artistic psyche is on musical display Saturday, December 9, 6PM. It was de rigueur for 19th century painters, musicians and literary types—Byron, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn—to make the Grand Tour to Rome and Florence, imbibe the classicism, passion, bel canto, and expressivity that are hallmarks of Italian art, and bring them home to their studios where memories of the sunshine sustained them in chilly northern Europe. The centerpiece of the program is Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, written as he recovered from a disastrous marriage and developed an infatuation with the city that spawned the Renaissance. Florence worked its magic on Tchaikovsky, and the result is one of the most delightful and charming pieces in the repertory, for string sextet. This Italian showcaseincludesChrysanthemums, the only chamber music Puccini ever wrote; works by the Venetian Vivaldi; Hugo Wolf’sItalian Serenade, and a Verdi string quartet. Bellissimo
The Amernet String Quartet: Misha Vitenson,violin; Franz Felkl, violin; Michael Klotz, viola; Jason Calloway,cello; with Xiao-Dong Wang, viola; Yehuda Hanani, cello

Mid-Winter Fireside Concert

Voice of the Baroque–A Close EnCountertenor!

Saturday, February 24, 6 PM

Saint James Place, Great Barrington, MA
$38 general seating, $15 for students

Seldom has there been such a merging of intellectual rigor and emotion as in Johann Sebastian Bach’s Gamba Sonatas. The slow movements reach remarkable spiritual height and the outer movements are bursting with joy. Yehuda Hanani’s legendary musicianship and artistic probing will enrich these challenging sonatas. We also introduce American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen in selections of English song from Dowland, Purcell and Handel. Identified as one of opera’s most promising rising stars, in 2017 he received a Richard Tucker MusicFoundation grant, made his European debut at the Theater an derWien and was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition. “…There was only one complete artist. At just 23, Cohen, a baby-faced countertenor from Brooklyn, already possesses a remarkable gift for intimate communication…Expressive yet dignified, his phrasing confident and his ornamentation stylishly discreet, he brought tears to my eyes.”—The New York Times
CEWM is delighted to return Saturday, February 24 at 6 PM to the legendary acoustics of the newly “converted” Saint James Place, its earliest home.
Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen,countertenor; Michele Levin, piano; Yehuda Hanani, cello

The Ariel String Quartet–Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Shostakovich
Saturday, March 17, 6 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $27 (Balcony), Students $15

Three 19th and 20th century Russian works create a trajectory through recent Russian history. Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No. 1 is the first notable work of Russian chamber music, said to have moved Tolstoy to tears. Mystical, monastic, with two-cello richness that conjures a Russian Orthodox choir, Anton Arensky’s homage to Tchaikovsky, the Quartet Op. 35, stands between Tsarist pre-Revolution and post-Revolution dictatorships.  In Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 3, he is composing with Stalin looking over his shoulder and the movements have coded titles like “Blithe ignorance of the future cataclysm” and “The eternal question: Why? And for what?”  On Saturday, March 17, 6 PM, the Ariel Quartet presents a program rich in Russian lore, Slavic emotionalism, sparkling wit, Soviet-era sarcasm, and dazzling virtuosity.
“Playing with exceptional boldness and confidence — a blazing, larger-than-life performance that seemed to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit” (Washington Post)
The Ariel String Quartet: Gershon Gerchikov, violin; Alexandra Kazovsky, violin; Jan Grüning, viola; Amit Even-Tov, cello; withYehuda Hanani, cello 

Grand Piano Trios–Felix Mendelssohn and Bedřich Smetana
Sunday, April 29, 3 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $27 (Balcony), Students $15

The remarkably versatile composer-pianist-conductor-painter Felix Mendelssohn personifies genius and musical prodigy and his second Piano Trio in C minor (1845) is a true expression of the exquisite sensibility of his life and art. The profoundly moving Piano Trio in G minor of 1855 was composed after the death of Smetana’s daughter; its style is close to that of Robert Schumann, with hints of Liszt, Wagner and Berlioz. Sunday, April 29, 3 PM, two of today’s brightest young performers join cellist Yehuda Hanani for a juxtaposition of these passionate works, written in classic mid-19th-century style, full of beauty and riveting melodies. Winner of the Paganini Competition, Soovin Kim makes his area debut along with Uzbekistan-born Roman Rabinovich, first-prize winner in the Arthur Rubinstein International Competition in 2008.
“Soovin Kim was the highlight of the evening, a patrician virtuoso on the solo part of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto…He drew a golden tone from his 1709 “ex-Kempner” Stradivarius” (Washington Post)
Roman Rabinovich, piano; Soovin Kim, violin; Yehuda Hanani, cello

The Faux and the Fabulous–ACRONYM BAROQUE
Saturday, May 12, 6PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $27 (Balcony), Students $15

Perhaps because it is so distant and its style so ingratiating and universally pleasing, the Baroque period inspired many imposters. Leaving the baby on the doorstep of a good family to give him a better chance in life, many composers attributed their works to a more famous composer. Fakes unveiled will include Frescobaldi’s Toccata (by Cassado), Couperin’s Five Concert Pieces (by Bazelere) and C.P.E. Bach’s Andante (by Cassadeseus). In addition to these gems (rhinestones), Saturday, May 12, 6PM, ACRONYM, the 12-member string band, will take us back further in time and introduce some authentic forgotten masterpieces of the pre-Baroque and Baroque eras, by Viennese and German composers. Much of their programming is devoted to modern premieres of works newly transcribed from manuscript, previously unpublished, unrecorded and unheard since the early 17th century.  Neo, quasi, retro, faux—never mind, this is the real thing!
ACRONYM Baroque String Band; Kivie Cahn-Lipman, director; Yehuda Hanani, cello 

Gala:  Lenny at 100—Feel the BERNstein!
Saturday, June 9, 6 PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $27 (Balcony), Students $15

Acknowledged as possibly the greatest conductor the U.S. has ever produced, Leonard Bernstein was dashing, brilliant and eloquent; a dazzling pianist, lecturer and cultural figure who redefined the word “charisma.” Equally at home on the concert stage and Broadway, when summer came, he headed to the Berkshires, where important friendships were forged with Aaron Copland, Marc Blitzstein, Lukas Foss, and other legendary musicians.  Celebrating the 100th anniversary of his birth, we present a musical portrait of a versatile career, with his vocal and piano music and that of composers he championed—Mahler (Bernstein held a Mahler Festival to mark the centenary of that composer’s birth!), Sondheim and Ives; selections from Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera, Foss’s cowboy piece Capriccio, and Copland’s El Salón México.  A delightful romp through the music scene circa 1950 as barriers began to come down among genres. Glitter and be gay and experience the Bernstein phenomenon Saturday, June 9, 6PM!
Michael Chertock,piano; Danielle Talamantes, soprano; Kerry Wilkerson, baritone; Rachel Lee Priday, violin; Yehuda Hanani, cello 

In the Close Encounters With Music tradition, each performance October through May is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception, with hors d’oeuvres and wine provided by local restaurants.

Close Encounters With Music continues its listen and talk series, Conversations With… intimate and stimulating afternoons of music, literature and exchanges of ideas with notable performers, critics, authors, and cultural personages.

The Politics of Opera – Author and Scholar Mitchell Cohen
Sunday, November 12, 3 PM
Saint James Place, Great Barrington, MA
Tickets: $20 includes light refreshment

To what extent do operas express the political and cultural ideas of their age? How do storylines, harmonies and musical motifs reflect the composer’s view of the changing relations among art, politics, and society? Mitchell Cohen, who combines his academic expertise in political science and lifelong interest in the spectacle of opera in his new book (The Politics of Opera—A History from Monteverdi to Mozart, Princeton Press), will underscore the political dimensions of libretti and ideological elements of opera, which absorbs and mirrors currents of the day in dramatic dress-up.  Professor of political science at Baruch College and the Graduate School of CUNY, he has written for The New York Times Book ReviewThe Los Angeles Times Book ReviewThe Times Literary Supplement (London), Les Temps Modernes (Paris), and edited Princeton Readings in Political Thought (1995) and Rebels and Reactionaries: An Anthology of Great Political Stories (1992). Your next night at the opera won’t be the same!

Russian and Soviet Film Music: A Tuneful Survey
Sunday, April 22, 3 PM
The Mount, Lenox, MA
Tickets: $20 includes light refreshment

In a lecture illustrated with film clips, Professor Timothy Sergay of SUNY Albany will present an overview of Russian and Soviet film music, focusing not only on the famous contributions of Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, but also on such lesser known masters as Georgi Sviridov, the Soviet adoption of the Hollywood musical genre in the 1930s, the cultural role of songs created for Soviet films, and the influence of Russian music on Hollywood film scores. The talk will conclude with a review of the conventions of Hollywood’s musical representation of Russia and the world beyond the Iron Curtain. Sergay is a scholar and translator of Russian with multiple MA degrees in Russian language and literature—from the University of Michigan, Middlebury College Russian School, the Pushkin Institute of Russian Language in Moscow, and Yale University. His Yale doctoral dissertation was on the Christian sensibility of the Russian novelist Boris Pasternak.

For further information and to make reservations: 800.843.0778 or [email protected].

Close Encounters on the Radio/Podcast
Close Encounters With Music concerts are broadcast on WMHT-FM, and audiences are encouraged to tune in to the new weekly broadcasts of “Classical Music According to Yehuda” on WAMC Northeast Radio or visit

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 and enlighten the concert experience. Since the inception of its Commissioning Project in 2001, CEWM has worked with the most distinguished composers of our time—Lera Auerbach, Robert Beaser, Kenji Bunch, Osvaldo Golijov, John Musto, and Paul Schoenfield among others—to create important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon and on CD. A core of brilliant performers includes pianists James Tocco, Adam Neiman, Walter Ponce, Lydia Artymiw and Jeffrey Swann; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman and Erin Keefe; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Amy Burton, Jennifer Aylmer, Robert White, Lucille Beer and William Sharp; the Ariel, Vermeer, Amernet, Muir, Manahattan, Avalon, Hugo Wolf, Dover quartets, and Cuarteto Latinamericano; 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. Close Encounters With Music programs have been presented in cities across the U.S. and Canada—Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Omaha, Cincinnati, Calgary, Detroit, at the Frick Collection and Merkin Hall in New York City, at Tanglewood and in Great Barrington, MA, as well as in Scottsdale, AZ. Summer performances have taken place at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA; and the Catskill High Peaks Festival continued the educational mission of Close Encounters With Music with fifty international students in residence in the Great Northern Catskills at the Carey Center for Global Good in an immersive course of study and performance.

Tickets, $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $27 (Balcony) and $15 for students, are available at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413.528.0100.  Subscriptions are $250 ($225 for seniors) for a series of 7 concerts. Visit our website at

2017-2018 CALENDAR

The Titans: Schumann/Brahms Piano Quintets
Saturday, October 21, 6PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA

Souvenir de Florence–An Italian Holiday Celebration
Saturday, December 9, 6PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA

Mid-Winter Fireside Concert–A Close EnCountertenor!
Saturday, February 24, 6 PM
Saint James Place, Great Barrington, MA

The Ariel String Quartet–Tchaikovsky, Arensky, Shostakovich
Saturday, March 17, 6PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA

Grand Piano Trios–Mendelssohn and Smetana
Sunday, April 29, 3PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA

The Faux and the Fabulous–ACRONYM Ensemble
Saturday, May 12, 6PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA

Gala:  Lenny at 100—Feel the BERNstein!
Saturday, June 9, 6PM
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA

The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is at 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA. 
Saint James Place is at 352 Main Street, Great Barrington, MA.
A reception with light refreshments follows each concert October through May.  A Patrons Gala Reception follows the June concert.

Conversations With…

“The Politics of Opera—Author and Scholar Mitchell Cohen” at Saint James Place (Great Barrington) is on Sunday, November 12 at 3 PM. $20 per person includes light refreshments.

“Russian and Soviet Film Music: A Tuneful Survey” is at The Mount (Lenox, MA) on Sunday, April 22 at 3 PM. $20 per person includes light refreshments.

CEWM in quotes…

“Great music played with great heart… There’s a palpable mystique about Close Encounters concerts. The evening never failed to fascinate!…”
–The Berkshire Eagle

“The Berkshires are home to distinguished cultural events, but none so brilliant, perhaps, as the chamber music series Close Encounters With Music.” —Berkshire Record
“…A stunning, majestic resolution, a brilliant ending to an unforgettable encounter with music.  Bravi!” —The Berkshire Edge

“…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….”