High Peaks Music Festival August 10-20 Brings “The Grand Italian Tour” to the Great Northern Catskills with Internationally Acclaimed Musicians and Young Artists

Catskills High Peaks Flyer

HUNTER, New York — “The Grand Italian Tour” is the theme of the fifth edition of the Catskill High Peaks Festival: Music with Altitude!, hosted by the Catskill Mountain Foundation, August 10–20 and presented by Close Encounters With Music, the Berkshire-based chamber music organization.

The ten-day chamber music festival, directed by internationally acclaimed cellist Yehuda Hanani, offers a combination of concerts, lectures, film and master classes, open to the public and featuring distinguished faculty artists and outstanding young musicians from around the world. Festival events will take place at the newly restored Orpheum Theater in Tannersville, NY and the Doctorow Center for the Arts in Hunter as well as additional locations in the Hudson Valley and Berkshires.

“We are committed to bringing the very best artists and leading pedagogues to continue this new musical tradition, here in the breathtaking environment that inspired the Hudson River School painters and generations of artists since,” says Hanani. Guest performers include Elmar Oliveira, Gold-Medal winner of Moscow’s prestigious Tchaikovsky International Competition, the only American violinist to ever capture the award and Axel Strauss, Enescu and Naumburg prize winner and guest concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.

The centerpieces of the festival are two concerts devoted to Italy as the mother lode of musical culture. “Years of Pilgrimage,” Sunday, August 10 at 2 pm at the Doctorow Center for the Arts, traverses two centuries of Italian brilliance and demonstrates how it inspired its famous tourists (Mendelssohn, Byron, etc.). This concert showcases selections from the mercurial keyboard music of Baroque-era Domenico Scarlatti, to Luigi Boccherini’s luscious string works, the humor and exuberance of Rossini, the virtuosity of Paganini, and the genius of Verdi. Performing with Yehuda Hanani on cello and Michael Chertock on piano, Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Lucille Beer sings favorite coloratura arias that typify the bravura of Italian vocal tradition.

The major work of the second concert, “Souvenir de Florence,” Sunday, August 17 at 2 pm at the Orpheum Performing Arts Center, is Tchaikovsky’s own musical souvenir of his visit to Italy 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. Stravinsky was similarly stricken, and wrote his quasi-baroque Suite Italienne for Diaghilev and the Ballet Russe. The Valentini cello sonata offers a high quotient of virtuosic verve, and the Boccherini Quintet holds familiar moments from the cinema. No Italian showcase would be complete without Vivaldi’s Double Concerto for two violins, which features eminent guests Elmar Oliveira and Axel Strauss. Other performers are violist Amadi Azikiwe; cellists Yehuda Hanani and Thomas Landschoot; pianist Michael Chertock, as well as the High Peaks Festival Chamber Orchestra.

Throughout the festival, a range of venues will host performances by talented up-and-coming musicians participating in the festival’s residency for young artists, providing audiences with an opportunity to catch a glimpse of some of the classical music world’s future stars. These include a concert of cello chorus (with 20 cellists!), string quartets, quintets and sextets and the Festival Orchestra on Monday, August 18, 5:30 PM at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and a “Stars of Tomorrow” performance at the historic Olana Estate in Hudson, NY, Friday, August 15 at sunset. A series of “Moonlight Sonatas” performances featuring top-tier young artists at the Doctorow Center in Hunter and in Tannersville will be free and open to the public.

The festival also offers a series of illuminating talks. Marking the Verdi bicentennial, Opera News contributor, architect and film-maker August Ventura presents “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Verdi” on Friday, August 15 at 2 PM in the Doctorow Center for the Arts. Ventura has been producing and directing an independent, feature-length documentary that captures the composer’s political and cultural relevance, shedding light on how the operas promoted the notion of a unified Italy and helped define her national character.

“Beethoven and the Dawn of Romanticism,” tracing Beethoven’s pathway from disciple of Haydn, from whom he inherited his audacity and humor, to prophet and hero of the Romantic Movement, is presented on Saturday, August 16 at 2 PM at the Doctorow Center. His music stands as a glorious bridge between two eras—classical and romantic—and selected examples will be played (live with Yehuda Hanani and Michael Chertock, and from recorded performances) to cover a good distance of this journey. A “Meet the Artists” afternoon will take place at the Onteora Library, and free classes and workshops will be offered each day, including a talk by Woodstock luthier David Wiebe on “Stradivari, Guarneri, Amati—Why Italy?”. For a full schedule of events, visit www.catskillhighpeaksmusic.org . Catskill High Peaks Festival is presented by Close Encounters With Music, the thematic chamber music series based in Great Barrington, MA, and hosted by the Catskill Mountain Foundation.

Ticket information for “Years of Pilgrimage” and “Souvenir de Florence”

Advance tickets: $25; seniors, $18; students, $7

Tickets purchased at the door: $30; seniors, $22; students, $7.

Information about “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Verdi,” “Beethoven and the Dawn of Romanticism, free master classes, Stars of Tomorrow concerts and Tea & Talk: www.catskillhighpeaksmusic.org or 518-392-6677.


The Catskill High Peaks Festival is a performing and teaching summer institute bringing together renowned musicians, pedagogues and exceptionally gifted international students. It is held in the majestic Northern Catskill Mountains, surrounded by the iconic scenery – mountain peaks, water falls and charming hamlets – that inspired the Hudson River painters, and that continues to inspire generations of artists, musicians and writers. The intimate scale and highest level of talent make possible an invigorating ten days of discovery, exploration, bonding, and growth. The festival has an all-inclusive atmosphere, fostering camaraderie and cross-cultural exchange and understanding. The faculty is similarly international. In past summers, the music has focused on traditions ranging from Latin American tango to Japanese ceremonial drums to the heritage of Jazz and improvisation in addition to the classical canon. Central to the festival’s mission are performance opportunities for young artists on the cusp of their careers. Faculty and guest performers have included the most respected classical musicians of our time: guitarist Eliot Fisk; violinists Shmuel Ashkenasi, Ara Gergorian and Stefan Milenkovich; pianists James Tocco, Michael Chertock, and Vassily Primakov and cellist Yehuda Hanani.

Catskill High Peaks Festival Artistic Director YEHUDA HANANI has received acclaim across the globe for his charismatic playing and profound interpretations. An extraordinary recitalist, he is equally renowned for performances with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Israel Philharmonic, Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Irish National Symphony, Honolulu Symphony, Seoul Symphony, and BBC Welsh Symphony. 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. 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. A prolific recording artist, he is Professor of Cello at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.