Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

October 24, 2013

Anatomy of a Melody

Close Encounters with Music, Mahaiwe, Great Barrington, MA
October 19, 2013
by Barbara Stroup

Because the concert title seemed to require it, and to bring clarity to the evolution of this world premiere, some background explanation was provided at this Close Encounters' concert. Cellist Yehua Hanani provided cogent details so that the audience would have a more critically tuned ear for the appearances of a singular musical element. Hanani described the source of the melody, the early opera tune “Love the Sailor,” helping listeners to further appreciate the skill composers use as they weave variations over a single theme.
Beethoven, for instance, used it in the 3rd movement of his piano trio Opus #11.

The highlight of the evening was the premiere performance of a commission by composer Paul Schoenfield who titled his use of the theme “Shaatnez for Ady.” Ady was present in the audience and far from alone in appreciating this modern composition. The piece was complex, tuneful, harmonic, bright, and the conclusion brought the audience to its feet. The piece was generously commissioned through the organization itself and if only every local musical group could manage this same generosity, audiences could continue to revel in Schoenfield’s skills.

For the trio and the commissioned piece, Hanani was joined on the stage by Miriam Fried (violin) and Renana Gutman (piano). These musicians exemplified all that is best about chamber music – a sensitivity to each other’s line when required, and a joy at leading when that opportunity was clearly their own. Perfectly balanced as a threesome, the sound periodically blurred during the final piece by Brahms. Perhaps the change from three lines to four was too abrupt for this venue or too sudden for these ears.

The venue itself deserves mention: the Mahaiwe has magic as one approaches the twinkling neon marquee and is drawn into the renovated facility, which shines in its refurbished state and lends itself to happy audiences with good sightlines and fine acoustics. Both this pleasant atmosphere and the early hour of the performance lent a feeling of being in the artists’ living room for an intimate evening of music making

This concert marks the beginning of the “Close Encounters with Music” season, which includes five more concerts between now and June 2014 at various venues in the Great Barrington area.