Close Encounters With Music Arts Talk
Chamber Orchestra Kremlin at the Mahaiwe, October 16, 2010
By Priscilla McLean, Special to the Times Union
October 17, 2010

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Close Encounters with Music, under the direction of cellist Yehuda Hanani, began its 19th season in the Berkshires at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington Saturday evening with a tour de force a seventeen-member ensemble from Moscow, Russia, called the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin. The largest chamber group CEM has ever presented, this was a leap of faith that paid off in a stunning performance by this talented ensemble of young professionals. The most unusual and intriguing music of the evening came with a set of very short piano pieces by Sergei Prokofiev and arranged for string orchestra by Rudolf Barshai entitled Visions Fugitives, Op. 22. Fifteen distinct and separate wonderful vignettes danced, floated, and skittered while producing chromatic and sometimes very dissonant harmonies. Just about every player in the ensemble seemed to be a virtuosic soloist,which made up for some of the slightly off ensemble playing in the violins during the most difficult passages.

The most poignant performance came during Kol Nidrei by Max Bruch, with Yehuda Hanani as the solo cellist. In this solemn music that uses Hebrew melodies, Hanani's performance was flawless and extremely sensitive, with beautifully shaped phrasing and a helping gesture to the ensemble as it continued his phrases. Cellist and strings blended as with one voice.

Hanani was also soloist in Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Andante Cantabile, an arrangement of his first string quartet for cellist and string orchestra. Although this piece is a cellist's dream, the orchestral part was mainly accompanimental, although played very well.

The most symphonic work of the evening was Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, filled with flowing melodies and short motifs that bounce around among the players. Listening to these lines, especially in the Valse movement, one could sense flying through the melodious air accompanied by angels playing stringed instruments, in a kind of whimsical Chagall painting of Russian village life. The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin shone in this piece.

One caveat: instead of the light and chittering Sonata in C Major by twelve-year-old Gioacchino Rossini played at the beginning of the concert, music director Misha Rachlevsky would be better advised to program a new work, perhaps one of the thirty the group has commissioned, or one by a young Russian composer. This concert needs a fresh sound unknown to an American audience to go with the more familiar fare offered, and to round out an otherwise happy and exciting evening.

Priscilla McLean is a freelance writer and composer/performer.


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 William Wolfram; 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, or through Close Encounters With Music at 800-843-0778 or by emailing Subscriptions are $175 ($150 for seniors) for a series of 6 concerts. Visit our website at

Note: Tickets for June 4th concert at Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall can be purchased through CEWM only.

2010-11 CALENDAR

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, Saturday, October 16, 6PM
Baroque Pantheon: A Holiday Concert Saturday, December 4, 6PM
Thus Spake German Romanticism Saturday, March 12, 6PM
Viola Quintets: Dvorak and Mendelssohn Saturday, April 16, 6PM
The Avalon Quartet: Steve Reich, Osvaldo Golijov and Schubert Saturday, May 7, 6PM

These five performances at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA. A reception with light refreshments follows each concert.

Tickets for Conversations with…. events on Sundays, November 21 and May 15, Hudson Opera House, Hudson NY, are $15 per person which includes refreshments.

Fiesta! A Latin Splash of Music and Dance takes place Saturday, June 4, 6PM, at Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Lenox, MA. Tickets: $50 Orchestra and Loges; $40 Balconies.

For information and tickets for the inaugural season of Close Encounters with Music at the Frick Museum in NYC call 212.547.0696 or

“A chamber music series on a par with anything heard at the height of the season. For this, we year-rounders are blessed.” —Rogovoy Report

“There’s a palpable mystique about these Close Encounters concerts.” —Berkshire Eagle

“STUNNER CLOSES SEASON! Though Hanani, Prutsman and Upshaw all performed with that rare combination of mutual understanding and technical finesse which makes for the most satisfying chamber music, Hanani deserves special recognition for his astute program choices.”

—Albany Times Union

“An all-star lineup…CEWM’s usual high caliber.” —Metroland

Close Encounters With Music
Post Office Box 34
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Mahaiwe Box Office: 413-528-0100
CEWM: 800-843-0778


For images, interviews, information:
Robin Zeamer, Communications
Phone: 800-843-0778