Great Barrington — As you are almost certainly aware (unless you are Rip Van Winkle), 2018 is composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein’s centennial. His August 25 birthday is of interest to the whole classical-music world, especially the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which has dedicated its 2018 Tanglewood season to Lenny’s music. But the inaugural event, the Berkshires’ first major Bernstein bash of 2018, will occur at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on Saturday, June 9, in a program presented by Close Encounters With Music.
Saturday’s program is a mix of pieces written or arranged by Leonard Bernstein intermingled with music from Lenny’s friends, colleagues and mentors. There’s a special focus on his earliest Tanglewood pals — people he met and worked with in his early days as a fellow at Tanglewood. The concert opens with Bernstein’s piano arrangement of Aaron Copland’s “El Salón México” and closes with four of the more popular tunes from “West Side Story.” Along the way, there’s music by Stephen Sondheim (from “Marry Me a Little” and “Anyone Can Whistle”), Kurt Weill (“Liebeslied” and “Speak Low”), Irving Fine (“Lenny the Leopard”) and Lukas Foss (“Capriccio”).
Cellist Yehuda Hanani, CEWM’s artistic director, has some amazing stories to tell about his dealings with Leonard Bernstein, whom he met in Tel Aviv in 1964. So it’s a sure bet that his pre-concert remarks will be more fascinating than ever.
You’d think a program like this would suit Leonard Bernstein fans perfectly. And you’d be right. But it suits newbies even better. In fact, Saturday’s program is perfect for anyone unfamiliar with Bernstein’s music who looks forward to hearing it at Tanglewood this summer. This show will get both newbies and fans primed and ready for more.