Chamber Series Commissions New Work by Paul Schoenfield

Composer Paul Schoenfield

Composer Paul Schoenfield

(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – A tune from Viennese operetta that Beethoven employed in a piano trio will once again be heard in “Shaatnez,” a newly penned piece by American composer Paul Schoenfield, having its world premiere on Saturday, October 19, 2013, at 6pm at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, as part of the Close Encounters With Music chamber series. The program will include Beethoven’s Trio in B-Flat Major (nicknamed “Gassenhauer Trio”), which spins out variations on a theme from Joseph Weigl’s popular 1797 “L’amor marinaro,” and sets the stage for the newly commissioned piece by Schoenfield, “Shaatnez,” which incorporates the same theme. Brahms Piano Quartet Opus 26 ends the program, which features violinist Miriam Fried, violist Paul Biss, pianist Renana Gutman, and cellist Yehuda Hanani.

Paul Schoenfield, whose music is widely performed and who moves with what has been described as “wizardly ease” from jazz to vaudeville and klezmer to ragtime and Broadway — sometimes in a single composition — combines exuberance and seriousness, familiarity and originality, lightness and depth. His work is inspired by the whole range of musical experience, popular styles both American and foreign, vernacular and folk traditions, as exemplified in “Café Music,” his runaway classical hit. The new “Shaatnez” (which translates most readily from the Hebrew or Coptic — the origins of the term are obscure — as “linsey-woolsey”), commissioned by Close Encounters With Music – weaves together not only the bawdy Viennese melody adopted by Beethoven, but also the famous Russian song, “Dark Eyes,” to astonishing effect.

pianist Renana Gutman

pianist Renana Gutman

“These two melodies co-exist like a marriage made in heaven,” says Close Encounters With Music artistic director Yehuda Hanani, who has known Schoenfield since student days at the Marlboro Festival. “Paul is a little bit like Ravel.  He combines mathematical precision with passionate folkloric elements. It’s on the edge and has the acerbic frenzy of music of modernity, but with wit, intelligence, and deep understanding of past traditions and techniques.  ‘Shaatnez’ is framed on the program with two masterpieces, to which it stands up brilliantly.”

Schoenfield has received commissions, grants and awards from Chamber Music America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Fund, the America Composers Forum and many other organizations; his compositions can be heard on Angel, Decca/London’s Argo label, Vanguard, EMI, Koch, BMG and New World. “Shaatnez” is the second work Paul Schoenfield has written for Close Encounters With Music. “Refractions for clarinet, piano and cello,” which was commissioned for bicentennial of Mozart death, was premiered in 1996, performed in New York, Detroit, Phoenix, and other U.S. cities, and recorded on an acclaimed all-Schoenfield CD for Naxos by Hanani, pianist James Tocco and clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein. Cultural critic Seth Rogovoy wrote of the world premiere: “Schoenfield’s dazzling work ingested the basic Mozartean vocabulary and transformed it into something astonishingly new and, even more remarkably, incredibly universal and personal at the same time.”


One idea of the biblical notion of shaatnez is that mixing wool and linen upsets the environmental and/or metaphysical fabric of the universe. In combining popular, classical, high and low, it could be said that much of Schoenfield’s signature style is “shaatnez,” that is a weaving and mixing, pastiche and superimposition spun into something classical music has rarely seen before him — that reinvigorates old forms.

Since the inception of the Commissioning Project in 2001, CEWM has worked with the most distinguished composers of our time — Schoenfield, Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, Jorge Martin, John Musto, and Robert Beaser — to create important new works that have already taken their place in the chamber music canon.



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