Fiddler off the roof – CEWM’s eclectic program includes world premiere


The fascinating phenomenon of Jewish music—spanning multitudes of cultures and centuries—its ancient roots, its meandering trails as it wends its way across continents, and its contribution to the American voice—takes center stage at a matinee performance Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 3 PM at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, MA. The performance is an ongoing series of concerts from Close Encounters with Music.

Works by Gershwin, Bernstein, Mahler, Mendelssohn, Milhaud, Bloch, and Max Bruch, (non-Jewish, but who adopted Jewish modes and themes), will be performed. And of course, expect a touch of klezmer, the toe-tapping Eastern European celebratory music imbued with spirituality. Medieval Iberian ballad repertoire will meet German Enlightenment (Bruch’s Kol Nidre and Felix Mendelssohn’s incomparable Piano Trio in D minor). The musical material has been passed from generation to generation, with adaptations, emendations, additions, and reinterpretations. Ravel’s rendition of Kaddish, which recycles the ancient chant in Aramaic for the departed dating back to the First Century, will be sung by tenor Alex Richardson, who this season appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Symphony, at Santa Fe Opera and Spoleto USA.

The journey will include a world premiere of ZEMER for cello and piano by celebrated American composer Paul Schoenfield. Exemplifying the kaleidoscopic exploration of diverse traditions and the symbiosis of East and West, Schoenfield’s ZEMER is an adaptive reshaping of liturgical material to concert hall spirit, based on a melody by local composer Cantor Max Roth. Works from the world of klezmer include Divertimenti from Gimpel the Fool by David Schiff and Béla Kovács’s Klezmer Medley, a tribute to Argentinian-born klezmer master Giora Feidman.

Joining artistic director Yehuda Hanani and tenor Alex Richardson are clarinetist Paul Green, pianist Michele Levin and violinist Sarah McElravy. Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder, popular songs by Gershwin and Kurt Weill, Kol Nidrei, Sephardic melodies by Paul Ben-Haim and Eastern European melodies by Joseph Achron offer a rich spectrum—but only the tip of the iceberg—of what constitutes Jewish music. Since in Jewish humor the answer to a question is always another question, “What Is Jewish Music?” raises many theories, but more questions. A superb time will be had seeking answers.

Jewish music is the song of Judaism through the lips of the Jew. It is the tonal expression of Jewish life and development over a period of more than two thousand years.”—Abraham Z. Idelsohn, “Jewish Music: Its Historical Development,” 1929

Tickets, $45 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $25 (Balcony), are available at The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center box office,413.528.0100. Visit our website at

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