(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – The critically acclaimed and much-beloved Close Encounters With Music (CEWM) chamber series — which brings Tanglewood-quality concerts to the Berkshires three out of four seasons of the year (or does Tanglewood bring Close Encounters With Music-quality programs in the summer?) – kicks off its 21st season on Saturday, October 20, 2012, at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, with a concert featuring grand prize winners of the Tchaikovsky International Violin Competition and Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition in their Berkshire debuts. Highlights of the 2012-2013 season also include performances by Tragicomedia, one of the preeminent Baroque ensembles; classical guitarist Eliot Fisk in the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by American composer Robert Beaser; and a June 8, 2013, gala performance at Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, featuring the music of Norway’s national composer, Edvard Grieg, as played by its leading champion, violinist Arve Tellefsen.
Known for the dash, style, wit, and intelligence of artistic director and resident cellist Yehuda Hanani – who contextualizes each concert with brief commentary drawing upon a dazzling array of intellectual, cultural, social, literary, and musical history – CEWM turns the solitary recital into an eloquent dialogue as two Russian virtuosos of the highest order, Natalia Lavrova and Vassily Primikov, perform four-handed piano works in a panoply of styles on October 20 at 6 p.m. at the Mahaiwe. The program includes scherzos by Mozart and Chopin, John Corigliano’s Gazebo Dances, and a saucy Brazilian celebration by Darius Milhaud. Also featured is Franz Schubert’s Fantasie for Piano in F minor, one of the foundational works of the chamber music repertoire.
On December 8, 2012, at the Mahaiwe, CEWM will present Tragicomedia, an offshoot of Boston Early Music. With its unique constellation of leading instrumentalists and singers, the ensemble has exerted a strong influence in the field of early music since 1987, exploring every musical genre from lute song to fully staged Baroque opera and winning awards for their recordings for EMI, Virgin, Hyperion and Harmonia Mundi. Featuring rarely heard baroque instruments (mandolin, lirone, chitarrone, viola da gamba) for a rich palette of instrumental color, the program offers the repertoire of the Italian Cantata by Handel, Steffani and Barbara Strozzi in a festive performance with ensemble director Stephen Stubbs.
Back by popular demand, guitarist extraordinaire Eliot Fisk demonstrates again that the versatility and appeal of his instrument are almost limitless. He is joined by Metropolitan Opera star soprano Jennifer Zetlan and Yehuda Hanani in the world premiere of a newly commissioned work by American composer Robert Beaser. The wide-ranging program features multiple traditions: German lieder, moody Portuguese fado, J. S. Bach, tango, transpositions, improvisations, and more. The last student of legendary Spanish guitarist Andrés Segovia, Eliot Fisk was awarded the Cruz of Isabel la Catolica for his service to the cause of Spanish music, performing to dazzling critical and public acclaim, including a command performance for King Juan Carlos of Spain. Jennifer Zetlan has been lauded in the press for her “silvery voice with its affecting beauty and suppleness” (New York Times).
The April 20, 2013, performance juxtaposes a 20th century classic side by side with Schubert at the summit. Often described as a post-modern Gershwin or Jewish Ives, Paul Schoenfield combines ingredients of jazz, klezmer and whimsy in his irresistible, irreverent “Café Music.” Franz Schubert’s B-Flat Opus 99 captures the meteoric luminosity of his inevitable death, as well as his inimitable melodic lyricism. Both composers utilize folklore and the point of departure for each is the easy charm of the Viennese café. Violinist Erin Keefe and award-winning pianist Jeffrey Swann join for this evening of fascinating contrasts.
The May 18, 2013, program begins with the great masters of the German tradition, Mozart and Beethoven, then veers off to represent the man who challenged their hegemony and forged his own exotic, shimmering path: Maurice Ravel. Creating totally new sonorities, and contemporary rhythms based on archaic Mediterranean and Basque dances, his groundbreaking Piano Trio is like a Picasso painting in music. Brimming with ardor and ecstasy, it’s the modern that returns to primitive. An all-star line-up introduces Itamar Zorman and Roman Rabinovich, most recent top-prize winners of the Tchaikovsky and Arthur Rubinstein International competitions.
Resonating with the season of the midnight sun, the June 8 gala performance at Ozawa Hall, Tanglewood, brings to the fore the national composer of Norway, Edvard Grieg, as well as its present-day leading violinist, Arve Tellefsen. Fjords, pine forests, and the enchantment of fairy tales inhabit Grieg’s gorgeous songs and the folkloric Violin Sonata No. 2 in G Major. His friendship with Johannes Brahms, another North European master, is marked by the performance of Brahms’s Trio in B Major Opus 8, and a sampling of his superb piano works will demonstrate what earned him the moniker “Chopin of the North.” Readings from Hans Christian Anderson and Grieg’s colleague Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt complement the music.
Subscriptions to the 2012-2013 series include a free, subscribers-only exclusive event. Patrons and subscribers will be treated to a Midwinter Fireside concert at Ventfort Hall in Lenox on February 23, 2012, showcasing the Amphion String Quartet (2011 winners of the Concert Guild Artists award) in early Beethoven and the masterful Debussy quartet.
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, Kenji Bunch, 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 Jeffrey Swann; 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.
Tickets, $40 (orchestra and mezzanine) and $30 (balcony), are available at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office, 413.528.0100; through Close Encounters With Music at 800-843-0778; or by emailing email@example.com. Subscriptions are $185 ($160 for seniors) for a series of 7 concerts. Note: Tickets for June 8th concert at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall can be purchased through CEWM only.
Close Encounters With Music concerts are broadcast on WMHT-FM, and audiences are encouraged to tune into the new weekly broadcasts of “Classical Music According to Yehuda” on WAMC Northeast Public Radio.