Sunday, November 27, 2011

ChamberFest Cleveland: A Gala Concert to Benefit

Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 (Mvt. I) ¹²³ª°
Brahms: Piano Trio No. 1 in B major, Op. 8 (Mvt. I) ²ª*
Beethoven: Clarinet Trio in B flat major,  Op. 11 (Mvt. II, III) ª^*
Brahms: Clarinet Sonata in F minor, Op. 120/1 (Mvt. II) ^*
Schubert: Fantasia in F minor for piano Four Hands, D. 940 (Mvt. I, II, III, IV) °*
Schumann: Piano Quintet in E flat major, Op. 44 (Mvt IV) ¹²³ª°
At the Cowap Residence, Shaker Heights
¹- William Pruecil, violin; ²- Diana Cohen, violin; ³- James Larson, viola; ª- Mark Kosower, cello; °- Jonathan Biss, piano; *-Orion Weiss, piano; ^-Franklin Cohen, clarinet

Diana Cohen and her father, Franklin, are two of my favorite musicians both generally and in their respective instruments. Both are clearly passionate about their craft and when Diana told me that they were starting a summer music festival for Cleveland I was instantly intrigued and excited.

If tonight's concert -- a benefit for the young organization known as ChamberFest Cleveland with the Cohens serving as enthusiastic co-Artistic Directors -- is any indication, ChamberFest will be a force to be reckoned with when the concerts start in June 2012.

Before tonight's program a sampling of delicious Hors d'oeuvres and wine provided by Fire Food and Drink and it was interesting to see how many people the event had attracted and how many people I knew from how many different circles -- Cleveland Orchestra management, Cleveland Museum of Art staff, Heights Arts frequenters, patrons of those institutions and the many others that exist for Cleveland. After the concert, the reaction was unanimously positive.

And it's easy to see why: Aside from the two Cohens (the elder of which is Principal Clarinet and a long-time member of the Cleveland Orchestra) the event featured Cleveland Orchestra Members William Pruecil (violin) and Mark Kosower (cello), pianist Jonathan Biss, fresh off of a engagement as soloist with the Orchestra (in fact, the last of his concert series was played earlier this afternoon) -- established world-class musicians, along with Orion Weiss and James Larson, not as well known (at least not to me) but certainly not slackers.

And like the Hors d'oeuvres, tonight's program was a tasteful sampling of music that was as pleasing to the ears as the food was to the tongue. From the passioned, bold and sweet sounds of the first piece on the program, to the dramatic and breathy Piano Trio the program left me craving more, particularly Mr. Kosower's impassioned work in the Piano Trio.

The second movement adagio of the Beethoven Clarinet trio was such a sweet and tender lullaby it was impossible not to be moved, while the third movement had more of a trotting feel to it. Meanwhile, the Clarinet Sonata was searchingly soulful as if the Clarinet (Mr. Cohen) was searching for a long lost love.

Thought musically it wasn't my favorite, I'd be remiss not to mention the sheer technical challenge (and perfection) presented by Schubert's Fantasia in F minor for Piano Four Hands, played by both Mr. Biss and Mr. Weiss on the same piano -- to say that I was impressed by the coordination, and the sound that arose (as if there were one musician with four hands playing rather than two distinct musicians with their individual sounds) -- and by the end of the piece, both pianists had beads of sweat visibly running down their respective foreheads. But the result was splendid. (It should be noted that the piano for tonight's event was a Steinway Concert Grand provided by Steinway Hall Akron replacing the diminutive piano normally in the space)

The younger Ms. Cohen announced that in addition to the partnerships that brought tonight's event to fruition that ChamberFest has forged relationships and partnerships with WCLV (for media support) CIM (for performance space) and others.

I eagerly await the first concert in the ChamberFest, which promises to "present world-class musicians for an intensive summer chamber music festival, exploring unique and immersing thematic programming, and creating original engaging musical experiences for its audiences"


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