Sunday, February 19, 2012

Franklin & Diana Cohen & Friends (Musical Surprise Concert, First Unitarian Church of Cleveland)

Beethoven: Piano Trip in B-flat, Op. 11²³ª
Paul Ben-Haim: Song without Words²ª
Mendelssohn: Andante con moto tranqullo movement from Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49¹³ª
Levkovich: Adagio from Trio #1²³ª
Brahms: Clarinet Trio, Op. 114²³ª
¹- Diana Cohen, violin; ²- Franklin Cohen, clarinet; ³- Tanya Ell, cello; ª- Carolyn Warner, piano
In the Sanctuary of The First Unitarian Church of Cleveland.

In what has become an annual tradition (last year and the year before), Cleveland Orchestra member and Clarinetest Franklin Cohen joined with his daughter tallented violinist and Richmond Symphony Concertmaster Diana Cohen as well as other friends to honor the memory of their late wife and mother Lynette Diers Cohen through an afternoon of music.

Along with three of the musicans whom I hold in the greatest esteem (Mr. and Ms. Cohen and Cleveland Orchestra cellist Tanya Ell) and who have in years previous, this year brought the addition of fellow Orchestra member pianist Carolyn Warner.

One of the things I love about concerts like this is in addition to the more intimate nature of chamber music generrally is that the hair gets let down and you get a bit more of a peak at the musicians' personalities and history. This evening Mr. Cohen related a story about the first concert engagement where he, the late Mrs. Cohen, and Diana were scheduled to play Mr. Cohen found himself so preoccupied by making sure young Ms. Cohen had everything she needed that he forgot to bring his clarinets. Needless to say, that concert started a bit late.

This afternoon there was no such delay and the concert was an entirely decadent burst of music on a gray day. First up on the program was Beethoven's Piano Trio for clarinet, cello and piano: The first movement was full of life and set a deliciously sweet tone to the afternoon before diving into a second movement which was set off by a profoundly mournful cello that was embraced -- almost as if the arms were firmly wrapped around -- by the clarinet. In the third movement, the piano lead a happier mood with a celebratory theme that bounced from clarinet to cello and back before turning stormy and a bit more wistful

An addition to the printed program, Mr. Cohen introduced composer Paul Ben-Haim as one of the forefathers of Israeli music and played two of his pieces (Based on the introduction I believe -- but am not positive -- that they were from Song Without Words. Please correct me.) the two, played by Mr. Cohen and Ms. Warner, brought a haunting combination of songs and a lingering/wandering feeling.

Last before intermission, the Andante con moto tranquillo movement from Mendelssohn's Trio in D Minor which certainly brought forth a feeling of beautiful tranquility and had a sweet harmony between the Ms. Cohen's violin and Ms. Ell's cello supported by beautiful work by Ms. Warner at the keyboard.

A free-will offering was made and Diana Cohen announced that the proceeds would go toward a fund in her mother's memory at ChamberFest Cleveland (see here for my recap of the inaugural benefit) and after intermission the program started to wind down beginning with Adagio from Dimitri Levkovitch's Trio #1, which I found as a tremendously expressive piece that propelled me to a delightfully meditative space and I felt that the playing was exceptionally strong in a concert full of strong playing.

Before the final piece on the program Mr. Cohen made the apt observation that while dedicatications were being made, as a musician really every note he played is dedicated to someone and has bits of the essence of those who have taught and shaped him and the same is true of his students. And that was a wonderful sentiment, the program closed on Brahms' Clarinet Trio. The first movement was beautiful but had a more relaxed sound than the adagio tempo notation would have lead me to expect. and the second movement adagio was achingly sweet and tender. The third movement sweet enough that I let myself just get lost in the music and the analytical part of my brain stepped out for the movement. The final allegro had more of a conclusive feeling  and seemed to be a natural end to the tension of the piece and a delightful end to a fantastic concert.


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