Americana is a starter for the Berkshires' fall classical music season

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Charles Ives' Symphony No. 3, subtitled "The Camp Meeting," recalls old times in the New England countryside. Leonard Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story" recall gang wars in the New York streets.

Together, the two pieces make up a slice of Americana that the Berkshire Symphony will play under conductor Ronald Feldman to open its season. That, in turn, makes the Oct. 21 program the most far-ranging in the Berkshires' fall classical music lineup.

The Ives symphony, like much of his other music, is based on old hymn tunes. He called it "a kind of crossway between the older ways and the newer ways." But even he, an experimentalist, couldn't have foreseen what "new" would be 60 years later when Bernstein created his jazzy, iconic musical.

With the Bernstein suite, Feldman is getting a jump on the celebrations sure to come for the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth, 2018. Already, Tanglewood has indicated plans to mark the occasion in a big way.

Ranging farther abroad, the Williams College-based orchestra will follow its opener with a Nov. 18 program of "Latin Impressions," offering works by Copland, Ravel and Ginastera.

Classical is only a part of the many musical offerings at Williams, where faculty and student ensembles dominate the concert mix. Notable visiting artists include Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, who, on the recital circuit, has begun a four-year survey of Bach's major keyboard works (Oct. 25). Three nights later, harpist Alice Giles presents a recital. Ensemble Rebel plays a baroque program (Nov. 20).

With the Tanglewood glut past, Berkshire-based presenters take up the cause, focusing on repertoire that has worked for them in the past.

In South County, Close Encounters with Music opens with a return of the Chamber Orchestra Kremlin in a program of Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich (Oct. 15). Misha Rachlevsky conducts and Yehuda Hanani, the series' director, is the soloist in Haydn's Celllo Concerto in C.

"The Passion of Camille Saint-Saëns and César Franck" follows, pairing chamber works by each in homage to a Parisian femme fatale (Dec. 3).

Berkshire Bach Society starts its season with a quintet (harpsichord, flute and strings) from the Orchestra of St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble (Nov. 5). The society's annual "Messiah" Sing, allowing participants to sing to an accompaniment by a professional ensemble, takes place under conductor Frank Nemhauser (Nov. 26).

The society's annual "Bach at New Year's" blast at the Mahaiwe, under harpsichordist-conductor Kenneth Cooper, will again feature the six "Brandenburg" Concertos, but this time in an unusual sequence beginning with No. 1 and ending with No. 3. Violinist Eugene Drucker of the Emerson String Quartet will be a featured guest.

The Mahaiwe, on its own, is making a splash with celebrity violinist Joshua Bell in a benefit recital (Oct. 28). He will be joined by pianist Alessio Bax. The Clark Art Institute brings back its resident ensemble (pianist Jeewon Park and cellist Edward Arron, with clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois) in a program of Beethoven, Bernstein and others (Oct. 16). The Bernstein selection is his youthful Clarinet Sonata.

Choral music makes up a sizable part of the area's fall mix. At Williams, the college's concert and chamber choirs will present an a cappella program (Nov. 4). And at Simon's Rock, the Chamber Orchestra and Chorus will perform a program of Vivaldi (the Magnificat) and Buxtehude (Dec. 15).

Among community choruses, Berkshire Lyric, the Berkshire Concert Choir and the Cantilena Chamber Choir will also be active with a variety of repertoire.

Then there's the popular Met in HD simulcast series, showing at the Mahaiwe and the Clark (with repeat performances at the Mahaiwe). The series opens with a new production of Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," featuring Stuart Shelton and Nina Stemme. (Oct. 8). Next up are Mozart's "Don Giovanni" (Oct. 22) and Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho's internationally acclaimed "L'Amour de Loin (Dec. 10).

In a farewell to summer, South Mountain has one program remaining: the Johannes String Quartet, with Richard Stoltzman in the Brahms clarinet quintet (Oct. 9). Mozart and Bartok round out the program.


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