Close Encounters with Music Presents “A Close Encountertenor” — 2017 MET Audition Winner Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen Performs English Songs, Yehuda Hanani Plays Back Gamba Sonatas

Photograph of Aryeh Nussabaum Cohen

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

Three “storied” string quartets share the theme of a love triangle. The first three years of Schumann’s marriage to his beloved Clara Wieck were an exceedingly productive period for the young composer, and the time when he focused on the genre of the string quartet, producing the String Quartet No. 2 in F Major, one of the most poignant and satisfying of his works. Brahms, Clara’s platonic and cherished confidante and friend, reportedly destroyed some twenty string quartets before allowing the two Op. 51 quartets to be published, the achingly beautiful A minor No. 2 being one of these. Identified as one of opera’s most promising rising stars, in 2017 he received a Richard Tucker Music Foundation grant, made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien and was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Audition.

“It happened once in the history of Western music that contradictions coexisted in such perfect balance–passion and discipline, structure and freedom, intellectual rigor and spiritual flight. To quote my teacher Pablo Casals, ‘Bach is a miracle’” says artistic director Yehuda Hanani. “He is of his time and timeless.” Joining him for the journey through the sonatas is his long-time musical partner Michele Levin, first prize winner of the Johann Sebastian Bach International Piano Competition in Washington, DC.

With this concert and Nussbaum Cohen’s Berkshire debut, CEWM further displays its aptness for discovering fresh talent (violinist Vadim Gluzman and composer Osvaldo Golijov are just two of the world-class musicians who made their debuts with CEWM before being recognized by a wider public). The New York Times wrote recently of him, “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.”

Tickets are $38 general admission, $15 for students. Order by calling 800-843-07788 or visiting Subscriptions for the remaining season’s concerts are also available for purchase through Close Encounters With Music by phone, at or at the concert.


23-year-old American countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen has quickly been identified as one of opera’s most promising rising stars. In his breakout 2016-17 season, he was named a winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, recipient of a Sara Tucker Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Music Foundation, First Prize Winner in the Houston Grand Opera Eleanor McCollum Competition, and winner of an award from the George London Foundation. Recent performances have included the world premiere of Kenneth Fuchs’ Poems of Life with the Virginia Symphony, which he records with the London Symphony Orchestra for release in 2018 (Naxos). In the summer of 2016, he participated in the Merola Opera Program at San Francisco Opera, and in the summer of 2017, he joined Wolf Trap Opera as a Studio Artist. In 2017-18, he joins the Houston Grand Opera Studio as the first countertenor in the Studio’s history, where sings Nireno in Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Maid in Strauss’ Elektra. He also joins American Bach Soloists for their 20th annual performances of Handel’s Messiah in San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, and Ars Lyrica Houston for two concert programs. On the recital stage, Nussbaum Cohen presents a recital in San Francisco, under the auspices of the Merola Opera Program, and he sings recitals in Houston, Great Barrington, MA and additional cities. In the summer of 2018, he makes his role debut as Ottone in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea with Cincinnati Opera. He made his European debut at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna, singing the primo uomo role of Timante in Gluck’s Demofonte with baroque ensemble Il Complesso Barocco. Nussbaum Cohen has significant experience in the world of sacred music. Highlights include serving as the alto soloist in the Bach Magnificat with the Leipzig Barockorchester in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, Germany. During his senior year at Princeton University, he became the first singer in a decade to win the Princeton University Concerto Competition. Nussbaum Cohen received his BA in 2015 from Princeton, where he majored in History (with a concentration in Intellectual and Cultural History) and received certificates in Vocal Performance and Judaic Studies. Upon graduating, he was awarded Princeton’s Isidore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize for extraordinary achievement in the arts, granted each year to the student of greatest promise in the performance of classical music.

Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani’s charismatic playing and profound interpretations bring him acclaim and re-engagements across the globe. An extraordinary recitalist, he is equally 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, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Honolulu Symphony, Jerusalem Symphony, Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra, and Taipei and Seoul symphonies, among others. He has been a guest at Aspen, Bowdoin, Chautauqua, Marlboro, Yale at Norfolk, Round Top (TX), Great Lakes, and Grand Canyon festivals, Finland Festival, Great Wall (China), Leicester (England), Ottawa, Prades (France), Oslo, and Australia Chamber Music festivals, and has collaborated in performances with preeminent fellow musicians, including Leon Fleisher, Aaron Copland, Christoph Eschenbach, David Robertson, Vladimir Fedoseyev, Itzhak Perlman, Vadim Repin, Dawn Upshaw, Shlomo Mintz, Yefim Bronfman, the Tokyo, Vermeer, Muir, Lark, Avalon, Amernet, and Manhattan quartets, and Cuarteto Latinoamericano, as well as members of the Cleveland, Juilliard, Borromeo, and Emerson. In New York City, Yehuda Hanani has appeared as soloist at Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, Alice Tully, and the Metropolitan Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. His pioneering recording of the monumental Alkan Cello Sonata received a Grand Prix du Disque nomination, and his other discs have won wide recognition. On CD and in live performances, he has premiered works of Nicolai Miaskovsky, Lukas Foss, Leo Ornstein, Joan Tower, Paul Schoenfield, Osvaldo Golijov, Jorge Martín, and Bernard Rands, among other composers. Mr. Hanani has been committed to extending the range of the cello repertoire and to collaborating with performers in many artistic realms, including actors Jane Alexander, Richard Chamberlain and Sigourney Weaver. Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he presents masterclasses internationally at conservatories and for orchestras, including the Juilliard School, University of Indiana at Bloomington, New England Conservatory, McGill University, Peabody Conservatory, Paris Conservatoire, Berlin Hochschule für Music, Royal Academy of Music in London, Tokyo National University, Jerusalem Academy of Music, Guildhall School in London, Central Conservatory of Shanghai and Central Conservatory of Beijing, and the New World Symphony in Miami. His engaging chamber music with commentary series, Close Encounters With Music, has captivated audiences from Miami to Kansas City, Omaha, Calgary, Scottsdale, the Berkshires, and at the Frick Collection in New York City. A three-time recipient of the Martha Baird Rockefeller grant, Mr. Hanani’s studies were with Leonard Rose at the Juilliard School and with Pablo Casals. His best-selling recording of the Unaccompanied Bach Suites has become a standard-setter, and of his recent Naxos CD with the National Symphony of Ireland Fanfare Magazine wrote: “Renowned cellist Yehuda Hanani, great virtuoso that he is, handles this with astounding aplomb…This is certainly a splendid release, and should by no means be passed up.” Aimed at outreach for classical music, his weekly program on NPR affiliate station WAMC Northeast Radio, “Classical Music According to Yehuda,” has gained thousands of fans for the direct broadcast and podcast. He directs the High Peaks Festival, a teaching and chamber music festival that takes place in 2018 on the campus of the Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA. Soloist, chamber musician, master teacher, essayist, and ambassador for the arts, Yehuda Hanani illuminates and enlightens audiences on the essence of music.

Audiences and critics have acclaimed Michele Levin, pianist and composer, as a multi-faceted musician of extraordinary sensitivity, virtuosity, and dedication to the art of making music. Ms. Levin is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music with a double major in piano and composition. She began her studies there at the age of eleven and is the first woman to receive a Curtis Master’s Degree in Composition. The Johann Sebastian Bach International Piano Competition in Washington, DC awarded her first prize in competition with pianists from fourteen countries. Ms. Levin has performed as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Pops, Florida Philharmonic, Miami Chamber Symphony, Sinfonia Virtuosi, New World Symphony, Albany Symphony, and Virginia Symphony. She has also given solo and chamber music recitals in major cities throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Asia, and Central and South America. In demand as a chamber musician, she has toured the world with violinists Peter Zazofsky, Joseph Silverstein, Ruggerio Ricci, Nina Beilina, Daniel Phillips, Donald Weilerstein, Sydney Harth, Ik-Hwan Bae, Maria Bachman, Arve Tellefson, Lin Chang, and Yehonaton Berick; with violists Rivka Golani, Paul Neubauer, Atar Arad, Rainer Moog, and Jessie Levine; and with cellists Yehuda Hanani, Ronald Thomas, and Wolfgang Boettcher. She has performed with clarinetists Mitchell Lurie, Alexander Fiterstein, Eli Eban, and Charles Neidich; with harpist Heidi Lehwalder; and with flutists Thomas Wolf and Carol Wincenc. Ms. Levin tours regularly with the Muir String Quartet and as a guest artist with the Miami String Quartet. In 2007, the Muir Quartet premiered her String Quartet No. 1, which she dedicated to the quartet. Her repertoire extends into the realm of vocal music, having given recitals with Metropolitan Opera vocalists Gwendolyn Bradley, Marvis Martin, Martina Arroyo, D’Anna Fortunato, Carol Farley, Lucy Shelton, and William Sharp. Ms. Levin records for Koch International, EcoClassics, Altarus, and the Canadian Broadcasting Companies.


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 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, Robert Beaser, Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, Jorge Martin, John Musto, 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 Roman Rabinovich, Soyeon Kate Lee, Walter Ponce and Jeffrey Swann; violinists, Vadim Gluzman, Julian Rachlin, Peter Zazofsky, Itamar Zorman and Erin Keefe; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein and Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Rivera, and Kelley O’Connor; the Amernet, Muir, Manhattan, Avalon, and 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 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. Visit


Saint James Place opened in January 2017 as a home for small and mid-size Berkshire County arts groups in need of quality performance space. Saint James Place is a state-of the-art cultural center, where residents can enjoy music, theater, dance and other performances along with lectures, classes and meetings year-round in the heart of downtown Great Barrington.