Close Encounters with Music Presents the American Premiere of Andre Hajdu’s Masterwork “Kohelet” Featuring Sam Waterson as Narrator

Photographs of the Performing Artists


(Great Barrington, MA…) Embarking on its 28th year of presenting outstanding chamber music with lively commentary, the Berkshires’ premier chamber music organization Close Encounters With Music, launches 2019-20 with the much anticipated North American premiere of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) for four cellos, narrated by star of film, stage and television Sam Waterston on Sunday, October 27 at 5 PM. 

“For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  These famous words underscore some of the lessons of this sometimes perplexing and always intriguing volume of the Bible’s Wisdom Literature, which ushers us into the inner chambers of the author’s—traditionally said to be King Solomon—philosophical wrestlings with the deepest universal issues of life.  Certainly, it is a time for music, with Hajdu’s mesmerizing score that highlights the timelessness of the text, and with the autumnal season awakening reflections on the cycle of life and death. (The writer’s conclusion is that we must find the intrinsic value of the present!) Sam Waterston takes on the role of the philosopher king, traversing the proverbs, aphorisms and familiar passages that have entered our collective lexicon. A quartet of cellos accompany, challenge and serve as a sort of Greek chorus to the questions, observations and aphorisms of the narrator.

Ecclesiastes, Latin for the Hebrew “Kohelet,” is no less than an exploration of the meaning of life and mortality, as well as an affirmation of joy and wisdom. Attributed to King Solomon, the wisest of men, Kohelet/Ecclesiastes has consistently intrigued and challenged Jewish scholars. At the same time, its proverbs, aphorisms, and poetic imagery have permeated Western culture and literature throughout history. Figures as wide-ranging as Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, Tom Wolfe, and Pete Seeger have incorporated the iconic passages in their work.

Born in Hungary, Andre Hajdu’s early musical education was molded in the modern Hungarian style of Bartók and Kodály, with whom he also explored ethnomusicology. He later studied in Paris with Milhaud and Messiaen and befriended the playwright Samuel Beckett, who had a strong influence on Hajdu’s worldview and artistic aesthetic. Moving to Israel in 1966, the composer became interested in Jewish topics including folklore, liturgy, philosophy, and history and often interpreted Jewish themes through his music. As a teacher, he nurtured some of Israel’s foremost contemporary composers and was awarded the Israel Prize for his music. Hajdu’s innovative work defies categorization much the same as the Biblical book KOHELET that he dramatizes in this production.

Andre Hajdu’s work integrates diverse musical and cultural idioms in a way that is innovative and thoroughly original. His KOHELET combines a text rooted in ancient Jewish tradition with a contemporary musical form performed by the unusual ensemble of cello quartet, who respond to the narrator-king. KOHELET has received performances in Germany, Holland, France and Israel—and now is heard in the U.S. for the first time.

A hallmark of CEWM’s programming is its mix of cultural influences and traditions. KOHELET is an ancient Jewish scriptural text yet it has a universal relevance and has influenced Christian and secular art, literature and thought for centuries. This dramatic presentation by actor Sam Waterston will make the work accessible to a wide audience, and reveal the universalism, power and poetry of the Bible to the uninitiated as well as those familiar with the text. The translation read by Mr. Waterston will be the New Saint James.

Sam Waterston
, narrator

Yehuda Hanani
, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, Michael Nicolas, Do Yeon Kim, cello
In the Close Encounters With Music tradition, each performance is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception, with hors d’oeuvres and wine provided by local restaurants.

Tickets, $62 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $38 (Balcony) and $15 for students at the door, are available at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413-528-0100,


Sam Waterston is an American actor, producer, and director. Among other roles, he is noted for his portrayal of Sydney Schanberg in The Killing Fields (1984), for which he received an Academy Award nomination, and his starring role as Jack McCoy on the NBC television series Law & Order (1994–2010), which brought him Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards. He has been nominated for multiple Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA, and Emmy awards, having starred in over eighty film and television productions during his fifty-year career.  He has also starred in numerous stage productions. AllMovie historian Hal Erickson characterized Waterston as having “cultivated a loyal following with his quietly charismatic, unfailingly solid performances.” Waterston received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2010 and was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 2012.

Yehuda Hanani’s charismatic cello playing and profound interpretations bring him acclaim and re-engagements around 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, I Solisti Zagreb, 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, Julian Rachlin, Vadim Repin, Dawn Upshaw, Shlomo Mintz, Yefim Bronfman, the Tokyo, Vermeer, Muir, Lark, Avalon and Manhattan quartets, 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, The Frick, and at the Metropolitan Museum’s Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. In addition to his pioneering recordings of Charles Valentin Alkan (for which he received a Grand Prix du Disque nomination), Nikolai Miaskovsky, Leo Ornstein, and Eduard Franck, he is one of the originators of thematic programming with commentary that engages and illuminates contemporary audiences. Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory and past faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory, he will join the faculty at the Mannes School of Music in New York City in 2020.

“The sonatas came bounding to life in vital interpretations rich in imaginative detail and virile strength.  Mr. Hanani was rightly rewarded with cheers from the audience.” –The New York Times            

“Soulful, fiery performance.” –The New York Times                                                                      

Dr. Kivie Cahn-Lipman holds degrees from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, The Juilliard School, and the University of Cincinnati. He is the founding cellist of the International Contemporary Ensemble—with which he performs regularly to international critical acclaim—as well as founder, lironist, and director of the baroque string band ACRONYM and gambist with the viol consort LeStrange. Kivie appears on more than forty recordings on labels including Nonesuch, Naxos, New Focus, New Amsterdam, New World, Tzadik, ArsPublica, Kairos, Mode, Tundra, Starkland, Olde Focus, Canteloupe, Stradivarius, and ECM, and his recording of the complete Cello Suites of J.S. Bach was praised for its “eloquent performances,” “fresh thinking,” and “energy and zeal” (The Strad). As a chamber musician, he has performed frequently in Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and other major venues on four continents, as well as live on WNYC 93.9 in New York and WFMT 98.7 in Chicago. Kivie taught cello at Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges from 2005-2012 and at The College of New Jersey from 2015-2017, and he has been on the faculty of the Cortona Sessions for New Music each summer since 2012. He joined the faculty of the Dana School of Music in 2017.

A “long-admired figure on the New York scene” (New Yorker), cellist Michael Nicolas enjoys a diverse career as a chamber musician, soloist, recording artist, and improviser. His eclectic tastes and adventurous spirit have led him to forge a musical path of uncommon breadth, where his activities range from performing the masterpieces of the past in the world’s most prestigious concert halls, to freely improvising in downtown New York’s experimental venues, to working with contemporary composers of all styles, pushing the boundaries of musical expression and meaning. He is the cellist of the intrepid and genre-defying string quartet Brooklyn Rider, which has drawn praise from classical, world music, and rock critics alike. As a member of the acclaimed International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), he has worked with countless composers from around the world, premiering and recording dozens of new works. Michael helped found the group Third Sound, which made its debut with a historic residency at the 2015 Havana Contemporary Music Festival, in Cuba. As a soloist, Michael performs recitals and concertos across the globe. His album Transitions, available on the Sono Luminus label, was named Q2 Music Album of the Week at WQXR upon release and it has since garnered critical acclaim throughout North America. His chamber music playing can also be found on the Naxos, Tzadik and Universal Korea labels. Of mixed French-Canadian and Taiwanese heritage, Michael was born in Canada and currently resides in New York City. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School.

A native of South Korea, cellist DoYeon Kim has won first prize in the Adrian Boyer Competition, the 34th Music Education Journal Competition and the Grand Rapids Federation of Musicians Madura Scholarship Competition. She has performed as a soloist with the Bayview Music Festival Orchestra and Acronym Baroque and has been a guest performer with the chamber series Close Encounters With Music in Great Barrington. International summer festivals have included The Quartet Program, Bowdoin and Aspen. Kim completed her Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance at the University of Cincinnati in the studio of Yehuda Hanani, a Master of Music degree in Cello Performance at the Eastman School of Music in the studio of Alan Harris and is now completing a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Cincinnati as a teaching assistant. An avid chamber musician, she has worked with members of the Ying, American, Shanghai, Ariel, and Cavani quartets, and is a member of the Dante Deo Trio which was founded at the Eastman School of Music in 2012 and Miclot Production chamber society based in New York City.  Her trio was invited to play in the Lock Heaven Chamber Music series in 2016 and she played in open house concerts and annual Miclot productions in the Marjorie S.Deane Theater in New York City in 2014 and 2015. She made her New York debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall as first prize winner of the 2016 American Protégé International Strings and Piano Competition. She has been a scholarship fellow and music coordinator of Berkshirel High Peaks Music Festival since 2014 and now joins the faculty.


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—Joan Tower, Judith Zaimont, 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, Roman Rabinovich, Soyeon Kate Lee, Inna Faliks, Max Levinson and Michael Chertock; violinists, Shmuel Ashkenasi, Vadim Gluzman, Julian Rachlin, Peter Zazofsky, Itamar Zorman and Hagai Shaham; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein and Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Rivera, Danielle Talamantes and Kelley O’Connor; the Muir, Manhattan, Ariel, Vermeer, Escher, Avalon, Hugo Wolf, Dover string quartets; and the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet 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 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 The Clark in Williamstown, at Tanglewood and in Great Barrington, MA, as well as the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Summer performances have taken place at the New York State Museum, Basilica Hudson, Orpheum Theatre in Tannersville, and in the orchard at Olana. In its 10th year, the Berkshire High Peaks Festival takes place each July at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA, as the educational mission of Close Encounters With Music with fifty international students in residence for an immersive course of study and performance.

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 amplify the concert experience. His charismatic playing and profound interpretations bring him acclaim and re-engagements across the globe. Under Hanani’s leadership, CEWM pushes the traditional boundaries of traditional chamber music through thematic programming that embraces a range of musical idioms, styles, cultural influences, and eras. CEWM, now in its 28th season in the Berkshires, regularly commissions new works (25 to date!) and concert programs often weave music together with theater, dance, and literature.
Venues include the landmark Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and the newly renovated Saint James Place in Great Barrington. To complement the musical offerings, two guest speakers, Haydn scholar Caryl Clark, and composer Tamar Muskal are featured in the current Conversations With…. series.