Close Encounters with Music Presents The American Premiere of Andre Hajdu's Masterwork 'Kohelet' Featuring Sam Waterston as Narrator at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center

Arts and Entertainment

September 10, 2019

From: Close Encounters With Music

Great Barrington, MA -- Embarking on its 28th year of presenting outstanding chamber music with lively commentary, the Berkshires’ premier chamber music organization Close Encounters With Music, launches 2019-20 with the much anticipated North American premiere of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) for four cellos, narrated by star of film, stage and television Sam Waterston.

"For every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” These famous words underscore some of the lessons of this sometimes perplexing and always intriguing volume of the Bible’s Wisdom Literature, which ushers us into the inner chambers of the author’s—traditionally said to be King Solomon—philosophical wrestlings with the deepest universal issues of life. Certainly, it is a time for music, with Hajdu’s mesmerizing score that highlights the timelessness of the text, and with the autumnal season awakening reflections on the cycle of life and death. (The writer’s conclusion is that we must find the intrinsic value of the present!) Sam Waterston takes on the role of the philosopher king, traversing the proverbs, aphorisms and familiar passages that have entered our collective lexicon. A quartet of cellos accompany, challenge and serve as a sort of Greek chorus to the questions, observations and aphorisms of the narrator.

Ecclesiastes, Latin for the Hebrew “Kohelet,” is no less than an exploration of the meaning of life and mortality, as well as an affirmation of joy and wisdom. Attributed to King Solomon, the wisest of men, Kohelet/Ecclesiastes has consistently intrigued and challenged Jewish scholars. At the same time, its proverbs, aphorisms, and poetic imagery have permeated Western culture and literature throughout history. Figures as wide-ranging as Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Bradbury, Tom Wolfe, and Pete Seeger have incorporated the iconic passages in their work.

Born in Hungary, Andre Hajdu’s early musical education was molded in the modern Hungarian style of Bartók and Kodály, with whom he also explored ethnomusicology. He later studied in Paris with Milhaud and Messiaen and befriended the playwright Samuel Beckett, who had a strong influence on Hajdu’s worldview and artistic aesthetic. Moving to Israel in 1966, the composer became interested in Jewish topics including folklore, liturgy, philosophy, and history and often interpreted Jewish themes through his music. As a teacher, he nurtured some of Israel’s foremost contemporary composers and was awarded the Israel Prize for his music. Hajdu’s innovative work defies categorization much the same as the Biblical book KOHELET that he dramatizes in this production.

Andre Hajdu’s work integrates diverse musical and cultural idioms in a way that is innovative and thoroughly original. His KOHELET combines a text rooted in ancient Jewish tradition with a contemporary musical form performed by the unusual ensemble of cello quartet, who respond to the narrator-king. KOHELET has received performances in Germany, Holland, France and Israel—and now is heard in the U.S. for the first time.

A hallmark of CEWM’s programming is its mix of cultural influences and traditions. KOHELET is an ancient Jewish scriptural text yet it has a universal relevance and has influenced Christian and secular art, literature and thought for centuries. This dramatic presentation by actor Sam Waterston will make the work accessible to a wide audience, and reveal the universalism, power and poetry of the Bible to the uninitiated as well as those familiar with the text. The translation read by Mr. Waterston will be the New Saint James.

Sam Waterston, narrator
Yehuda Hanani, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, Michael Nicolas, Do Yeon Kim, cello

In the Close Encounters With Music tradition, each performance is followed by an AFTERGLOW reception, with hors d’oeuvres and wine provided by local restaurants.

When: Sunday, October 27, 2019 at 5:00pm

Where: Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, 14 Castle Street, Great Barrington, MA 01230

Tickets: $62 (Orchestra and Mezzanine) and $38 (Balcony), Students $15

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