Fall classical music preview: Leaves drop, music rises


Check the musical calendar as well as wall calendar: The equinox is at hand.

Five classical concerts this weekend mark the change of seasons: one concert each from South Mountain, Tannery Pond, and Music and More, heralding the end of the summer; and one apiece from the Berkshire Bach Society and South Berkshire Concerts, ushering in a winter schedule.

The novelty in this constellation is eight members of the noted Orchestra of St. Luke's from New York who, in a Berkshire debut, will perform for Berkshire Bach. The program, Saturday night at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, replaces the society's traditional "Bach at Zimmermann" coffeehouse opener by members of the Berkshire Bach Ensemble.

Bach is not forgotten, however. A short excerpt from his works introduces each of two old standbys from the chamber repertoire: Mozart's Clarinet Quintet (with Jon Manasse as clarinetist) and Beethoven's Septet.

Standard works dominate the weekend's programming, as they do the rest of the fall season. (What does this say about the Berkshire audience's expectations?)

Looking at the weekend's other opportunities to be in two places at the same time:

Also Saturday, Tannery Pond presents the Brentano String Quartet, a frequent Berkshire visitor, in the New Lebanon, N.Y., series' season closer. The program is Beethoven, Debussy and Mendelssohn.

Meanwhile, Music and More closes its classical offerings in New Marlborough Saturday with the Apollo Trio (violinist Curtis Macomber, cellist Michael Kannen and pianist Marija Stroke) in a program of Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Schubert.

On Sunday afternoon, South Mountain takes over with veteran pianist Menahem Pressler and three "friends" in the third of the venerable series' five September-October programs. They'll play Mozart, Dohnanyi and Schumann.

At the same time, the Simon's Rock Piano Quartet, made up of faculty members from the college, will perform Brahms, Prokofiev and Mozart in the South Berkshire opener.

Whatever influence the sun's passage may have exerted on these concert givers, the Berkshires will not see a glut like this again until next summer.

In general, the unfolding season offers the usual mix of the familiar and the occasionally unfamiliar, ranging from chamber and symphony to opera in the Met's HD Live series. As always, Williams College is the prime presenter, sampling jazz, world music, old music and new music in addition to the classics.

Williams performances are keyed to student participation and study. As music department chairman W. Anthony Sheppard writes in the concert brochure: "Performing and experiencing live music is an essential element of a liberal arts education."

The most ambitious programs come from the Berkshire Symphony. Under director Ronald Feldman, the mixed student-professional orchestra opens its Williams season on Oct. 11 with a couple of rarities: an overture by John Knowles Paine, the all-but-forgotten American composer, and Sibelius' one-movement Symphony No. 7. Doris Stevenson will be the soloist in Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 3.

In a Nov. 22 sequel, the orchestra will play Michael Torke's Olympics-inspired "Javelin" along with Ravel's "Tombeau de Couperin" and Brahms' Fourth Symphony. Two more programs will follow in the New Year. Guest conductors will replace Feldman, who will be on sabbatical.

Also at Williams, the mother-son team of violinist Miriam Fried and pianist Jonathan Biss will give a recital on Oct. 30, and the Momenta Quartet, a new-music group, will perform on Nov. 13. In honor of the Britten centennial, the Williams Chamber Players, who have already led off the season, will include his Phantasy Quartet for oboe and strings on an Oct. 10 program.

A celebration of Britten's choral music will take place on Oct. 20 when the Cantilena Chamber Choir, under director Andrea Goodman, devotes a full program to such pieces as his "Hymn to St. Cecilia" and "Hymn to the Virgin." Two children's choruses from the Pioneer Valley will join in.

Cantilena also plans a Christmas program of works by Poulenc and Russian composers on Dec. 15.

Miriam Fried makes another Berkshire appearance - this with her husband, violist Paul Biss -- in the leadoff concert of the Close Encounters with Music series on Oct. 19. The program, in which pianist Renana Gutman and cellist-director Yehuda Hanani also take part, offers piano quartets by Brahms, Beethoven and Paul Schoenfield. The Schoenfield piece is billed as a world premiere.

Close Encounters also lists violinist Vadim Gluzman and pianist Angela Yoffe in a holiday program on Dec. 21. Four more programs are scheduled in 2014.

Two one-off concerts of note: a resident artists string quintet at the Clark Art Institute on Nov. 17, and Berkshire Bach's annual New Year's Eve Bach bash (to be repeated on New Year's Day in Northampton).

The county's other choruses will raise their voices, and lest anyone forget, the four Met screenings are "Eugene Onegin" (Oct. 5), "The Nose" (Oct. 26), "Tosca" (Nov. 9) and "Falstaff" (Dec. 14). Showings take place at the Mahaiwe, Clark and Beacon Cinema, with encore performances at the Mahaiwe.


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