Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 31, 2022

REVIEW: “Reeds and Strings,” Close Encounters with Music

Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA 
May 29, 2022 
by Michael J. Moran 

Introducing this concert with his usual mix of erudition and wit, CEWM Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani identified music for reed instruments with Dionysus, god of fertility (“the music of heavy breathing”), and music for strings with Apollo, god of beauty and patron of the arts. Thus, the solo oboe piece by Britten would sound quite different from the Beethoven string trio, while the Mozart and Cimarosa works for reeds and strings would achieve “a happy balance” of earthly and celestial delights. 

Liang Wang
The opening performance by oboist Liang Wang, violinist Itamar Zorman, violist Michael Strauss, and cellist Hanani of Mozart’s 1781 oboe quartet accordingly exuded classical poise and elegance, from a lively “Allegro” through a tender “Adagio” and a graceful closing “Rondeau: Allegro.”   
Wang next took the spotlight for a literally breathtaking account of Benjamin Britten’s 1951 “Six Metamorphoses after Ovid” for solo oboe. Each section depicts a character in Roman mythology, and Wang, principal oboe of the New York Philharmonic, met the piece’s daunting technical challenges with virtuosic flair. Highlights included: the sensuous rhythmic complexity of the flutist Pan; the relentless speed of charioteer Phaeton; and the quiet poignancy of bereaved mother Niobe.
Zorman, Strauss, and Hanani then returned with an incandescent rendition of Beethoven’s inventive third string trio, Op. 9. A stormy opening C minor “Allegro con spirito,” a passionate “Adagio con espressione,” an energetic “Scherzo – Allegro molto e vivace,” with a gentle trio interlude, and a powerful “Presto” finale foreshadowed the pathbreaking mature composer who emerged shortly after this early (1799) masterpiece. 

Violinist Susan Heerema joined Wang and the string trio to close the program with Domenico Cimarosa’s 1790s oboe concerto. As Hanani promised, the Apollonian grace of the solemn “Introduzione” and the flowing “Siciliana” perfectly complemented the Dionysian exuberance of the alternating “Allegro” and “Allegro giusto” movements.   

The CEWM season will conclude on June 12, 2022 with “Musica Latina,” featuring Flamenco dancer Irene Rodriguez and a selection of Spanish music.

All Mahaiwe events, including CEWM concerts, require proof of vaccination and a photo ID for entry and masking inside the theater.

Editor's note: Mr. Moran's final paragraph, like reviews by myself and our writers, has become rote. By now, even though Covid is still very much with us, I usually gloss over this language. However, I have learned that I must heed these warnings. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend this concert because, while I did wear my mask (I even had an extra) and my ID, it didn't occur to me to bring my vaccination card. I had changed purses prior to the hour and a half drive to Great Barrington, and forgot to transfer the ID. Whether the ID is a Mahaiwe rule or that of Close Encounters, I don't know. Having been to at least a dozen arts events since Covid subsided a bit, I have yet to be asked to see my vaccination ID. My advice in the case of Close Encounters, and any venue, is to read the fine print.