The Art of the Quartet: The Escher String Quartet Presented by Close Encounters with Music

Photograph of the Escher String Quartet

APRIL 15, 2019

(Great Barrington, MA) Acclaimed for musical insights and rare tonal beauty, and championed by the Emerson String Quartet, the Escher has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and Asia. They served as BBC New Generation Artists and gave debuts at the BBC Proms, are winners of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and perform as Artists of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. For this program, they bring their special sheen to Mozart’s powerfully compelling String Quartet No. 23 in F major (third of the “Prussian Quartets”) and to Samuel Barber’s spellbinding Adagio for Strings. They are joined by Yehuda Hanani for the incomparable Schubert Quintet, regarded as one of the greatest compositions in all of chamber music, other-worldly in its beauty and miraculous melodies.

“Written as he lay dying, Schubert’s Quintet is a tremendous spiritual triumph and affirmation of hope and transcendence.  It moves from utter serenity to shattering tragedy and anguish,” says artistic director Yehuda Hanani, who has performed the work–which calls for the addition of a cellist–with many of the world’s preeminent string quartets.  “It really is a musical depiction of the human experience. I invite everyone to experience its power and profundity.”

“Clearly one of the finest quartets of their generation” —The Guardian
“Mr. Hanani was rightly rewarded with cheers from the audience.”   —The New York Times

The Escher String Quartet: Adam Barnett-Hart, violin; Danbi Um, violin; Pierre La Pointe, viola; Brook Speltz, cello, with Yehuda Hanani, 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. Audiences can savor the music and fun as well as the culinary connections with us at our thematic concerts and post-concert receptions this season!

Tickets, $50 (Orchestra and Mezzanine), $27 (Balcony) and $15 for students, are available at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413-528-0100, Pro-rated subscriptions to the remaining concerts in the spring Close Encounters series, any of our summer Berkshire High Peaks festival events and next season’s subscriptions are available to purchase by contacting 800-843-0778 or [email protected].


The Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty. A former BBC New Generation Artist, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town of New York, the ensemble serves as Artists of The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, recently presenting the complete Zemlinsky Quartets Cycle in a concert streamed live from the Rose Studio. In 2013, they became one of the very few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. Within months of its founding in 2005, the ensemble came to the attention of key musical figures worldwide. Championed by the Emerson Quartet, they were invited by both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be Quartet in Residence at each artist’s summer festival: the Young Artists Programme at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Programme on Shelter Island, NY. The quartet has since collaborated with artists including Leon Fleischer, Joshua Bell, Vilde Frang and David Shifrin. The Escher has played throughout Europe, in halls such as the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus and for the Les Grands Interprètes series in Geneva. Last season also saw debuts at London’s Kings Place, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall in Ljubljana, and festival appearances at Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses and the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway. Alongside its growing European profile, the Escher continues to flourish in the U.S., performing at Alice Tully Hall in New York, Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals. The ensemble made its first Australian appearance at the Perth International Arts Festival in 2012, and last season made its debut at the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival. Return engagements took them to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel and the Campos do Jordão Music Festival in Brazil. Their set of the complete Mendelssohn quartets on the BIS label has been received with the highest critical acclaim; Volume II was hailed for its “sheer finesse” by Gramophone. The Escher Quartet takes its name from Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole.

Yehuda Hanani’s charismatic playing and profound interpretations bring him acclaim and re-engagements across 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.


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, Walter Ponce and Jeffrey Swann; violinists,Shmuel Ashkenasi, Vadim Gluzman, Julian Rachlin, Peter Zazofsky, Itamar Zorman and Erin Keefe; 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 in cities 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 in Scottsdale, AZ. Summer performances have taken place at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. This year, the High Peaks Festival moved to the Berkshires to the Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA, where it has continued 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. Each concert is framed by an introduction before the music, and is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception with an opportunity to meet the musicians. 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 Conversations With…. series at the West Stockbridge Historical Society and Casana T-House in Hillsdale, NY.