Music Undefeated! Close Encounters with Music and the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center Present a Virtual Winter/Spring Series – Three Concerts, from the Historic Mahaiwe Stage to Your Screen

Images of the Performing Artists

JANUARY 12, 2021

Close Encounters With Music, now in its 29th year, announces a completely new winter/spring season of concerts that will be recorded on the Mahaiwe stage and made available for viewing online.  With these concerts, Close Encounters continues its tradition of chamber music with lively commentary, even in the age of COVID-19.  These new concerts will offer an exciting mix of chamber music treasures, discoveries and new cutting-edge music, all performed by world-renowned musicians. Four additional concerts, all recorded live from the stage of the Mahaiwe during the summer and fall of 2020, are also still available online at

And, there are plans afoot for the launch of a Close Encounters With Music Mobile, which will bring outdoor performances in early summer to parks and cultural sites in Berkshire and Hudson Valley towns.

Again in partnership with the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center and Classical WMHT-FM, the upcoming presentations will include three concerts, from February through April.  Full descriptions can be found below.  Each concert will begin with the same illuminating insights from artistic director Yehuda Hanani that audiences have enjoyed for over twenty-eight years, plus an “Afterglow” chat with guest musicians that audiences this year have found especially poignant. “In essence, thanks to our wonderful relationship with the Mahaiwe and our loyal supporters, we are presenting our full season, despite COVID,” says Marcie Setlow, president of the Close Encounters With Music board of directors. 

February and two April concerts will feature the magisterial Bach Cello Suites; New York baroque ensemble The Sebastians in a program of Vivaldi, Handel and CPE Bach; and CEWM favorites violinist Irina Muresanu and pianist Max Levinson with cellist Yehuda Hanani in a program of works by both Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn and by Chopin.

“Throughout history, even under the grimmest of circumstances, the need for music never stopped.  We are resolute and happy to provide performances virtually, as a reminder of the richness and beauty that life should offer,” says Hanani.  “My fellow performers and I have been elated to be reunited on the stage of the Mahaiwe this past fall and to share the bounty of Beethoven, Brahms, Boulanger, etc. online not only with our customary audiences, but also with an expanded public that defies geography. We’re grateful to those who donated to make it possible to offer the four summer/autumn performances and now the three-concert winter/spring series without ticket revenue.”

CEWM’s online offerings were launched in July when the decision was made to present an entirely virtual Berkshire High Peaks Festival, with the participation of 46 international string, piano and vocal students, followed by an August livestreamed concert, “From Bach to Bachianas,” a guitar/cello recital featuring Eliot Fisk and Yehuda Hanani on stage in an empty Mahaiwe Theater. These and the October through December concerts that followed, available on,, both organizations’ YouTube channels, and the Mahaiwe’s Facebook, have collected thousands of views.


Forever Bach—The Celestial Suites for Unaccompanied Cello
Sunday, February 28, 2021, 7:30 PM EST ( or

A composer beyond time and place, and a journey to transcendence!  J. S. Bach’s Suites are blueprints for cellists of all generations for the construction of temples of sound in time. Though alone with one instrument, “Unaccompanied” is a bit of a misnomer, as they require the performer to be an acoustic illusionist:  Each suite is more like a drama for three or four characters played by one actor, at times presenting a challenge akin to tightrope-walking on a bass line while performing a juggling act!  Yehuda Hanani has juggled and wrestled with the suites for decades, and his recording of the six suites is one of the definitive renditions of this holy of holies for cellists.  “In this era of the cello, Hanani is among the best.  His Bach was absorbing, imaginative, beautiful in all respects.” –San Francisco Examiner; “A consistently expressive artist” –The New York Times.

Yehuda Hanani, cello

The Sebastians Baroque Ensemble
Sunday, April 3, 2021, 7:30 PM EST ( and

The Sebastians connect with audiences through dynamic and vital performances of music of the baroque and classical eras. Known for their “energetic… youthful, vigorous performance style…” they have been called New York’s “leading young early-music ensemble” (The New York Times).  This colorful, varied program will feature Telemann’s “Paris” Quartet, the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto, and works by Vivaldi, CPE Bach, Handel and Porpora, with star roles for harpsichord and baroque flute (traverso).

Jeffrey Grossman, harpsichord; Daniel Lee and Nicholas DiEugenio, violin; Jessica Troy, viola; Ezra Seltzer, violoncello; Nathaniel Chase, violone; David Ross, traverso
Yehuda Hanani, cello

Felix, Fanny and Frederic: Chopin and the Mendelssohns
Sunday, April 25, 2021, 7:30 PM EST ( and

A dazzling pianist, accomplished violinist, composer, conductor, a gifted painter and a gymnast, Felix Mendelssohn enraptured the royal courts and concert halls of Europe before dying at 38, shattered by the sudden death of his beloved sister and musical soul mate, Fanny Hensel.  Beyond extravagant, outsize talent and an early death, Frederic Chopin and Mendelssohn shared a warm friendship.  No one matched Chopin’s genius in the realm of the keyboard, and, as Schumann declared, hearing the incomparably tender and rousing Piano Trio in D minor, “Mendelssohn is the Mozart of the 19th century.”   Fanny’s works were largely consigned to the drawing rooms of fashionable Berlin, but more recently are receiving their due in concert halls and on CD’s, having been rediscovered as works belonging in the classical pantheon. Three faces of Romanticism!

Irina Muresanu, violin; Max Levinson, piano; Yehuda Hanani, cello

Close Encounters With Music is in its 29th year of presenting music and other programming to audiences in the Berkshires and beyond. 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, Tamar Muskal, Thea Musgrave, 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 who appear regularly with Close Encounters 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 Sam Waterston, 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, Mass., 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 11th year, the Berkshire High Peaks Festival takes place each July at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass., 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 boundaries of traditional chamber music through thematic programming that embraces a range of musical idioms, styles, cultural influences, and eras. CEWM, now in its 29th 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 Saint James Place in Great Barrington.