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Previous Events and Artists

A Community Thank You

See our letter in the Berkshire Eagle thanking our community for a great opening weekend!

Opening Weekend: October 13th and 14th

The Birch Festival celebrates its opening weekend with performances and gatherings on Friday and Saturday.

Come to one event or come to all!

Friday, October 13

Opening Celebration

Join us for music and light refreshments at Sohn Fine Art in Lenox to celebrate our opening weekend.

Donations of any size will be accepted with all proceeds going toward our educational programming and artist residencies for our Spring, 2024 Festival.

Donations are optional!


Sohn Fine Art (69 Church Street, Lenox)

Saturday, October 14

Yoga by Birch – FREE

Join Rachel Barker, yoga and meditation instructor (E-RYT® 200, YACEP®), for a FREE yoga class in the Chapel’s beautiful labyrinth room. We’ll walk up the hill to Don’t Tap on the Glass after! *Bring your own mats // Class size is limited to 10.

9:00 am

The Church on the Hill Chapel (55 Main Street in Lenox)

Saturday, October 14

“Don’t Tap on the Glass” Open Rehearsal – FREE

The Birch Festival invites you to an open rehearsal for the evening, warts and all! Watch and listen as the musicians talk through thorny passages, play through complicated sections, and negotiate tempos.

10:30 am

The Church on the Hill (169 Main Street in Lenox)

Saturday, October 14

A Conversation with the Musicians

After listening to our open rehearsal, stay for a musical conversation with Kinan Azmeh, Renana Gutman, and Yevgeny Kutik.

12:30 pm

The Church on the Hill, Lenox

Saturday, October 14

Concert: Bartók, Folk Music, and More – $20

Kinan Azmeh, clarinet; Renana Gutman, piano; Yevgeny Kutik, violin

  • Trio violin, clarinet, piano   Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) 
  • A Scattered Sketchbook for Violin and Clarinet (2012)   Kinan Azmeh (1976) 
  • Deir Ezzor from  Syrian Dances (2018)   Kinan Azmeh
  • Dances from Korond   László Draskóczy (1940-2020)
  • Six Romanian Dances violin and piano (arr. Zoltán Székely) Béla Bartók (1881-1945)   
  • Contrasts for violin, clarinet, and piano, SZ. 111 Béla Bartók  

This concert is generously co-sponsored by Arlene & Gary Schiff

4:30 pm

The Church on the Hill (169 Main Street in Lenox)

Meet the Artists

Kinan Azmeh, clarinet and composer

“Intensely soulful… Virtuoso” The New York Times

“[Azmeh’s] rhapsodic clarinet [is] able to seduce with a rare intimacy and explode in ecstasy.”  Los-Angeles Times

“Spellbinding!”  The New Yorker

“brilliant liquidity and meltingly beautiful tone” The Times, London

Hailed by critics and audiences alike, winner of Opus Klassik award in 2019 clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh has gained international recognition for his distinctive voice across diverse musical genres.

Originally from Damascus, Syria, Kinan Azmeh brings his music to all corners of the world as a soloist, composer and improviser. Notable appearances include the Opera Bastille, Paris; Tchaikovsky Grand Hall, Moscow; Carnegie Hall and the UN General Assembly, New York; the Royal Albert Hall, London; Teatro Colon, Buenos Aires; Philharmonie, Berlin; the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, Washington DC; the Mozarteum, Salzburg, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie; and in his native Syria at the opening concert of the Damascus Opera House.

He has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Dusseldorf Symphony, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, The Azerbaijan State Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Symphony Nova Scotia, Toronto Symphony, A Far Cry, The Knights Orchestra,  Calgary philharmonic, Qatar Philharmonic and the Syrian Symphony Orchestra among others, and has shared the stage with such musical luminaries as Yo-Yo Ma, Daniel Barenboim, Marcel Khalife, John McLaughlin, Francois Rabbath, Aynur and Jivan Gasparian.

Kinan’s compositions include several works for solo, chamber, and orchestral music, as well as music for film, live illustration, and electronics. His resent works were commissioned by The New York Philharmonic, The Seattle Symphony, The Knights Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Elbphilharmonie, Apple Hill string quartet, Quatuor Voce, Brooklyn Rider, Cello Octet Amsterdam, Aizuri Quartet and Bob Wilson.

An advocate for new music, several concertos were dedicated to him by composers such as Kareem Roustom, Dia Succari, Dinuk Wijeratne, Zaid Jabri, Saad Haddad and Guss Janssen, in addition to a large number of chamber music works.

In addition to his own Arab-Jazz Quartet CityBand and his Hewar trio, he has also been playing with the Silkroad Ensemble since 2012, whose 2017 Grammy Award-winning album “Sing Me Home” features Kinan as a clarinetist and composer.

Kinan Azmeh is a graduate of New York’s Juilliard School as a student of Charles Neidich, and of both the Damascus High institute of Music where he studied with Shukry Sahwki, Nicolay Viovanof and Anatoly Moratof, and Damascus University’s School of Electrical Engineering. Kinan earned his doctorate degree in music from the City University of New York in 2013.
His first opera “Songs for Days to Come” which is fully sung in Arabic, was recently premiered in Osnabruck, Germany in June 2022 to a great acclaim. He has recently been appointed to the National Council for the Arts on a nomination by President Joe Biden.

Renana Gutman, piano

Praised by the New York Times for her “passionate and insightful” playing, Renana Gutman has performed across four continents as an orchestral soloist, recitalist and collaborative artist. She played at venues like The Louvre Museum, Grenoble Museum (France), Carnegie Recital Hall, People’s Symphony Concerts, Merkin Hall (New York), St. Petersburg’s Philharmonia (Russia), Stresa Music Festival (Italy), Ravinia Rising Stars (Chicago), Jordan Hall, Gardner Museum (Boston), Herbst Theatre (St. Francisco), Menuhin Hall (UK), UNISA (South Africa), Marlboro (VT), and National Gallery, Phillips Collection, and Freer Gallery (Washington DC). Her performances are heard frequently on WQXR Young Artists Showcase, NY, WFMT Dame Myra Hess, Chicago, and MPR in Performances Today, MN.

Renana was one of four young pianists selected by the renowned Leon Fleisher to participate in his workshop on Beethoven piano sonatas hosted by Carnegie Hall, where she presented performances of “Hammerklavier” and “Appassionata” to critical acclaim. Her recording of Chopin etudes op.25 will be released soon by “The Chopin Project”

A top prize winner at Los Angeles Liszt competition, International Keyboard Festival in New York, and Tel-Hai International Master Classes, she performed concerti such as Brahms 2nd, Rachmaninoff-Paganini Variations, and Beethoven’s “Emperor” with the Jerusalem Symphony, Haifa Symphony, Belgian “I Fiamminghi”, and Mannes College Orchestra. Her festival appearances included Marlboro and Ravinia, where she collaborated with prominent musicians like pianist Richard Goode, clarinetist Anthony McGill and members of the Guarneri string quartet, to name a few.

High in demand as a chamber musician, Renana toured with “Musicians from Marlboro”, and served as the collaborative pianist of Steans Institute at Ravinia Festival from 2012-2018, where she performed chamber music and lieder extensively. In last seasons, she performed chamber music with violist Kim Kashkashian, violinist Miriam Fried, and clarinetist Charles Neidich. She tours regularly with violinist Alexi Kenney, winner of Avery Fisher Grant.

Renana premiered newly commissioned music by Paul Schoenfield, Tamar Muskal, Judith Zaimont, and other living composers. As a member of “Echoes of Hope” project, she is also dedicated to performing obscure pieces by Jewish composers who perished in the Holocaust; Erwin Schulhoff, Viktor Ullmann, and others. She was a founder member of the award-winning piano trio “terzetto”. The trio performed in festivals and concerts across The United States.

Renana joined the piano faculty of Boston’s Longy School of Music of Bard College in the fall of 2019. She had previously been on the piano faculty of the Yehudi Menuhin Music School in the UK.

A native of Israel, Renana started playing at the age of six, and soon after, garnered multiple awards and honors. She received scholarships from the America Israel Cultural Foundation, and the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women. She completed her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees at Mannes College of Music, NY, where she studied with Richard Goode. In Israel, her teachers were pianists Natasha Tadson, Viktor Derevianko, and the Israeli composer Arie Shapira.

Renana became an American citizen in 2015 and makes her home in Boston, MA. She also pursues her passion for Argentinian Tango, languages, and poetry.

Yevgeny Kutik, violin

With a “dark-hued tone and razor-sharp technique” (The New York Times), violinist Yevgeny Kutik has captivated audiences worldwide with an old-world sound that communicates a modern intellect. Praised for his technical precision and virtuosity, he is also lauded for his poetic and imaginative interpretations of standard works as well as rarely heard and newly composed repertoire. Kutik is also ​​Artistic Director and co-founder of The Birch Festival –– a festival built around connecting and integrating leading musicians with the Berkshire community, while highlighting the unique and original stories of those who make up the Berkshires.

A native of Minsk, Belarus, Yevgeny Kutik immigrated to the United States with his family at the age of five. His 2014 album, Music from the Suitcase: A Collection of Russian Miniatures (Marquis Classics), features music he found in his family’s suitcase after immigrating to the United States from the Soviet Union in 1990, and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Classical chart. The album garnered critical acclaim and was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered and in The New York Times. The album is currently being developed into an immersive stage and performance production for the 2024-2025 season.

Kutik’s additional releases on Marquis include his most recent album, The Death of Juliet and Other Tales (2021), which highlights Russia’s rich history of folklore and folktales portrayed in the music of Prokofiev. The album connects Prokofiev’s Solo Sonata for Violin, Sonata No. 2, and “Parting Scene and Death of Juliet” (arr. Borisovsky) to five Russian folk melodies in new arrangements by Kutik, Michael Gandolfi, and Kati Agócs, commissioned specifically for the album. In 2019, he released Meditations on Family, for which he commissioned eight composers to translate a personal family photo into a short musical miniature for violin and various ensemble, envisioning the project as a living archive of new works inspired by memories, home, and belonging. Strings Magazine featured Kutik as its cover story for the March/April issue, reporting, “True to Kutik’s vision, each miniature is a window into the composer’s emotional life.” Featured composers include Joseph Schwantner, Andreia Pinto Correia, Gity Razaz, Timo Andres, Chris Cerrone, Kinan Azmeh, Gregory Vajda, and Paola Prestini. Kutik’s 2016 album, Words Fail uses Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words as a starting point to expand upon the idea that music surpasses traditional language in its expressive capabilities. His 2012 debut album, Sounds of Defiance, features the music of Achron, Pärt, Schnittke, and Shostakovich, focusing on music written during the darkest periods of the lives of these composers.

In 2021, Kutik made his debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra led by Leonard Slatkin, performing the world premiere of Joseph Schwantner’s Violin Concerto, written specifically for Kutik. This is based on Schwantner’s earlier The Poet’s Hour – Soliloquy for Violin, which Kutik recorded on episode six of Gerard Schwarz’s All-Star Orchestra, a made-for-television classical music concert series released on DVD by Naxos and broadcast nationally on PBS. Kutik gave the world premiere of Cântico, a work for solo violin by Andreia Pinto Correia, at the Tanglewood Music Festival in August 2022. The work was co-commissioned for Kutik by the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Throughout the United States, Kutik has performed with orchestras including the Rochester and Dayton Philharmonics, Tallahassee, New Haven, Asheville, Wyoming, and La Crosse symphony orchestras, as well as Florida’s SYMPHONIA, New York City’s Riverside Symphony and Park Avenue Chamber Symphony, and the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston. Abroad, he has appeared as guest soloist with Germany’s Norddeutsche Philharmonie Rostock and WDR Rundfunk Orchestra Köln, Montenegro’s Montenegrin Symphony Orchestra, Japan’s Tokyo Vivaldi Ensemble, and the Cape Town Philharmonic in South Africa. He has appeared in recital as a part of the Dame Myra Hess Concerts Chicago, Peoples’ Symphony Concerts, Merkin Hall Tuesday Matinee Series, and National Sawdust in New York City, the Embassy Series and The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C., and at the Lobkowicz Collections Prague presented by Prince William Lobkowicz. Festival performances have included the Tanglewood Music Festival, Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival, Pennsylvania’s Gretna Music, Germany’s Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, and the Verbier Festival in Switzerland.

Passionate about his heritage and its influence on his artistry, Kutik is an advocate for the Jewish Federations of North America, the organization that assisted his family in coming to the United States, and regularly speaks and performs across the United States to both raise awareness and promote the assistance of refugees from around the world. He was a featured performer for the 2012 March of the Living observances, where he played for audiences at the Krakow Opera House and for over 10,000 people at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Yevgeny Kutik began violin studies with his mother, Alla Zernitskaya, and went on to study with Zinaida Gilels, Shirley Givens, Roman Totenberg, and Donald Weilerstein. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory and currently resides in Boston. In 2006, he was awarded the Salon de Virtuosi Grant as well as the Tanglewood Music Center Jules Reiner Violin Prize. Kutik’s violin was crafted in Italy in 1915 by Stefano Scarampella.

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