Close Encounters with Music Presents “Souvenir De Florence-An Italian Holiday Celebration”– with the Amernet String Quartet

Photograph of the Amernet String Quartet

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 showcase includes Chrysanthemums, the only chamber music Puccini ever wrote; works by the Venetian Vivaldi; Hugo Wolf’s Italian Serenade; and a Verdi string quartet. Bellissimo!

“The drama, exuberance and emotion of Italian opera make an appearance in the distilled format of chamber music and the synthesis is irresistable,” says Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani, who joins the Amernet for the Tchaikovsky Souvenir, along with violist Xia-Dong Wang. “The Grand Tour of Italy was a rite of passage in the 19th Century, and we will be presenting a Grand Tour in sound.”

The Amernet joins a long line of quartets who perform regularly for CEWM: the Dover, Escher, Manhattan, Muir, Vermeer, and Avalon, and this year, making their debut, the Ariel. Praised for its “intelligence” and “immensely satisfying” playing by the New York Times, the AMERNET STRING QUARTET has garnered recognition as one of today’s exceptional string quartets and holds the position of Ensemble-in-Residence at Florida International University in Miami. Their concert schedule has taken them across the Americas and to Asia, Europe, and the Middle East, performing in the U.S. at the Kennedy Center, Tilles Center, Caramoor, the Great Lakes Festival, Newport, Friends of Chamber Music in Arizona and Friends of Chamber Music in Syracuse, Music on the Edge in Pittsburgh, the University of Maine-Collins Center and in orchestral appearances as quartet soloists with the Cincinnati Symphony under Alan Gilbert. The Amernet secured its position in the chamber music world when it won the gold medal at the Tokyo International Music Competition and was awarded first prize at the prestigious Banff International String Quartet Competition. Committed to the music of our time, they have commissioned works from many of today’s leading composers, working closely with John Corigliano, Orlando Garcia, John Harbison, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Bernard Rands, Gerhard Samuel and Chinary Ung. Recordings include the Concerto for Clarinet, Oboe, String Quartet and Bass, by John Harbison with Sara Lambert Bloom and Charles Neidich as soloists; and The Butterflies Began to Sing, a work for string quartet, bass, MIDI keyboard and computer by Morton Subotnick. The Amernet actively advocates for neglected works of the past and aims to enliven the concert experience through its innovative programming Members of the Amernet are: Misha Vitenson and Franz Felkl, violins; Michael Klotz, viola, Jason Calloway, cello.

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 Adam Neiman, Roman Rabinovich, Walter Ponce and Jeffrey Swann; violinists Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman, Itamar Zorman and Erin Keefe; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein and Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Rivera, Kelley O’Connor, and Lucille Beer; 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.


Through programs of the highest quality in dance, music, theatre and opera, the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center ensures a diversity of talent on the stage and screen of our beautifully restored historic theater. Our goal is to present a variety of programs that appeal to all ages and interests, at ticket prices affordable to our community.