Close Encounters with Music Presents “Trade Winds: From China with Love”

Photograph of Liu Fang

(Great Barrington, MA) China’s “Empress of Pipa,” soloist Liu Fang, enchants with counterparts to the lute and zither during “Trade Winds: From China With Love,” a celebration of traditional Chinese classical music. The concert is presented by Close Encounters With Music Saturday, April 21, 6 pm at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center. Liu Fang is joined by cellist Yehuda Hanani for a premiere of Green by recent Pulitzer Prize winner Zhou Long. Originally written for Chinese bamboo flute and pipa in 1983, the version for cello and pipa was adapted in 2011. Composer Zhou Long elaborates on the intent of the work: “Heaven is blue, Earth yellow, and green all the plants they nurture. Green symbolizes the spirit of life. The music is exquisitely provocative, and its sound filling the distant space evokes the communion between man and nature.”

Before today’s multi-culturalism and penchant for fusion, the musical dialogue between East and West began with Debussy, Ravel, and the American avant-garde. “Trade Winds” also includes Bulgarian pianist Emma Tahmizian playing Ravel’s Mother Goose and Leo Ornstein’s remarkable A la Chinoise, while Israeli violinist Hagai Shaham offers Debussy’s pentatonic-inflected Sonata and Fritz Kreisler’s Tambourin Chinois. He also performs a work from another ancient tradition-Joseph Achron’s haunting Hebrew Melody.

The pipa has existed in China for over 2,000 years. Liu Fang compares classical Chinese music to Chinese poetry, lyric drama and calligraphy: “Chinese calligraphy has been regarded as the highest art form in our tradition. Indeed, great calligraphy gives me immense inspiration. The dynamics and movement of strokes of the brush, the line and the points, and the whole structure, are all comparable.” This is a rare appearance by one of today’s masters of the instrument combining her knowledge and practice with Western classical music, contemporary music and improvisation with distinguished colleagues.

An on-stage Afterglow Reception for the audience and artists follows the performance.


As a child prodigy in her native China, and now as a resident of Canada, Liu Fang has been regarded as one of the eminent pipa soloists in the world. She is also an excellent proponent of the Guzheng, or Chinese zither. Her talent crosses all boundaries, linguistic and cultural: She regularly performs solo recitals of Chinese traditional and classical music as well as contemporary music with orchestras, string quartets and varying ensembles and has premiered new compositions-works of Canada’s leading composers R. Murray Schafer and Jose Evangelista among others. Highly acclaimed for her “Silk and Steel” projects in which she collaborates with world class musicians from various traditions, she has released nine solo and collaborative albums. Her most recent recording Silk Sound, for the French Label Accords Crosses, won the prestigious Académie Charles Cros (the French equivalent of the Grammy). Liu Fang is referred to in the press as “the empress of pipa” (L’actualité, 2001), “divine mediator” (World, 2006), “the greatest ambassadress of the art of the pipa” (La presse, 2002) and “possessing virtuoso technique, grace and a unique empathy toward the music she plays-whether it is a traditional folk tune or a modern Western composition” (All Music Guide, 2004). To view a conversation with Liu Fang, click here:

Displaying a dazzling combination of technical brilliance and an intensely musical personality, Hagai Shaham is internationally recognized as one of the astonishing young violinists who have emerged from Israel in recent years. In September 1990, Hagai Shaham and his duo partner, Arnon Erez, won first prize at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich in the Violin-Piano duo category, the first competitors to be awarded this coveted prize since 1971. As a soloist, Shaham has performed with many of the world’s major orchestras, among them the English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; with the Taipei, Singapore and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras, and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under Zubin Mehta. In 1985 he was invited to join Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman Brahms’ Double Concerto at Carnegie Hall. In 2006 he performed this work again under Mehta, at the Israel Philharmonic 70th anniversary’s celebrations with cellist Misha Maisky. Mr. Shaham has recorded for Decca International, Chandos, Biddulph, Naxos, and Hyperion and served on the faculty of the Thornton School of Music at USC, Los Angeles.

Bulgarian native Emma Tahmiziàn made her debut as a soloist with orchestra at thirteen, and her international career was launched at nineteen, when she won First Prize in the Robert Schumann International Competition in Germany and gave her Berlin debut in the legendary Maxim Gorki Theatre. Ms. Tahmiziàn has concertized throughout Europe and North America. She has collaborated with first violinist of the Juilliard Quartet Joel Smirnoff, violist Kim Kashkashian, cellists Yehuda Hanani, Fred Sherry, and Matt Haimovitz, and soprano Bethany Beardslee. Critics have hailed her playing as “stunning” (The Times Record) and “electrifying” (The New York Times). Ms. Tahmiziàn has performed with all the major orchestras of her native Bulgaria, the Moscow and St. Petersburg philharmonics, The Prague Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, and the East Berlin Radio Symphony. A graduate of the Bulgarian State Music Conservatory, she holds a Master of Music Degree from The Juilliard School of Music, where her teachers included Adele Marcus. She is a laureate of the Tchaikovsky, Leeds, Van Cliburn, Montréal, Bach and Smetana competitions, a winner of the Pro Musicis Award, and a recipient of multiple grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She has taught at the Bulgarian State Music Conservatory, the University of Virginia, and the College of the Holy Cross and enjoys a long-standing association with the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

Cellist Yehuda Hanani is founder and artistic director of Close Encounters With Music. His engaging chamber music with commentary 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, he appears with orchestras and on the recital stage on five continents. He has been the subject of hundreds of articles and interviews in the media, and his weekly program on NPR affiliate station WAMC Northeast Radio, “Classical Music According to Yehuda” attracts thousands of fans. Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, he also directs the High Peaks Festival, a teaching and chamber music festival in Hunter, New York. He has appeared as soloist with leading orchestras around the world, with eminent colleagues, and has championed some of the most influential composers of our times.

Tickets, $40 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $30 (Balcony) include the After Glow audience reception on stage. They are available at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, 413.528.0100. For further information contact or 800-843-0778.


Sunday, April 29, 12:30 PM: Close Encounters With Music Annual Musicale Benefit at Blantyre
Savor a superb lunch and chamber concert while supporting Close Encounters With Music. A Salon-style celebration at one of the Berkshire’s most elegant resorts. Blantyre, Lenox, MA. For further information and reservations: 800.843.0778 or [email protected].

Sunday, May 13, 4 PM: “Conversations With…An Afternoon of Young Berkshire Composers”.
Free Presentation by Close Encounters With Music at the Lichtenstein Center
Emerging artists present their compositions. Conversations reflect on inspiration, the creative process and differences from the days of Mozart and Stravinsky. Light refreshments follow. The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts, 28 Renne Avenue, Pittsfield, MA. Free and open to the public. For further information: 800.843.0778 or [email protected].

Saturday, May 19, 6 PM: “Daedalus Quartet-Beethoven, Schubert & Berg”
Presented by Close Encounters With Music
An intriguing all-Viennese program. Schubert’s Quartettsatz; Alban Berg’s groundbreaking Lyric Suite; “Razumovsky,” Beethoven’s Opus 59 No. 1 in F Major. Min-Young Kim, violin; Ara Gregorian, violin; Jessica Thompson, viola; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello. Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA. Tickets $40/$30. Box Office: 413.528.0100.

Saturday, June 2, 6 PM : “The Roaring Twenties-Berlin, Paris, New York.”
Close Encounters With Music Season Finale at Tanglewood
Celebrate the golden age of jazz and cabaret, a period exemplified by experimentalism and decadence. Songs by Kurt Weill, Hanns Eisler, Cole Porter and Gershwin; Erwin Shulhoff’s Jazz Suite; and Entartete composers whose “degenerate” music. Jennifer Rivera, mezzo-soprano; Will Ferguson, tenor; James Tocco, piano; Yehuda Hanani, cello. Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall, Lenox, MA. Tickets $50 Orchestra/$40 Balconies. 800.843.0778;


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 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, 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 James Tocco, Adam Neiman, Walter Ponce and William Wolfram; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Yehonatan Berick, Vadim Gluzman and Toby Appel; harpsichordist Lionel Party; clarinetists Alexander Fiterstein, Charles Neidich; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Amy Burton, Jennifer Aylmer, Robert White, Lucille Beer and William Sharp; the Vermeer, Amernet, Muir, Manhattan, Avalon, Hugo Wolf quartets, and Cuarteto Latinoamericano; 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.