Saturday, January 12, 2013

ChamberFest Cleveland: A Gala to Benefit

Brahms: Rhapsody in B minor, Op. 79*
Brahms: Allegro appassionato from Sonata for Clarinet and Piano No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 120*^
Franck: Allegretto poco mosso from Sonata in A major for violin and piano.*%
Chopin: Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60*
Scriabin: Etude Op. 2 No. 1*
Scriabin: Two Poems, Op. 63*
Scriabin: Etude OP. 42 No. 5*
Bartok: Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano*^%
*- Garrick Ohlsson, Piano; ^- Franklin Cohen, Clarinet; Diana Cohen, Violin
At Canterbury Golf Club, Shaker Heights.

It's been about a month since the last Cleveland Orchestra concert -- and since I've been burning the candle at both ends (and sometimes in the middle) with work, I've enjoyed the quiet time. I return to Severance Hall tomorrow night, but tonight was the magical Gala Concert to benefit ChamberFest Cleveland, entering its second season. Long-time readers of my blog know my appreciation for the talents of the Cohen family, and arrick Ohlsson contributed wonderfully to a flawless evening.

While the piano used for this evening's performance was not the largest, Garrick Ohlsson dominated the room and the performance, starting with the bouquet of fragrant notes that overflowed the room like the audience assembled for the performance. Brahms's Rhapsody in B minor was filled with tension and release like a passionate romance -- from a fiery embrace to a quiet walk in seclusion.

Franklin Cohen joined Garricck Ohlsson for the Allegro appassionato movement from Sonata for Clarinet and Piano No. 2 and the sensation shifted from one of romance to one of  a dinner between long-lost friends telling the same story with a slightly different line -- and it seemed like Mr. Cohen and Mr. Ohlsson were completely at ease with each other. That ease, it turns out, may be attributable to the two musicians growing up in the same town and attending Julliard with only two years between them.

Diana Cohen traded places with her father for Cesar Franck's Sonata in A Major and I found the combination of the light and lofty notes from her violin an interesting contrast to the grounded, earthy sounds of the piano, which combined with this weekend's fine weather left me imagining a balloon (the violin) traversing the countryside (the  piano) -- until the violin gets caught in a tree, and after some anxious playing, breaks free.

After three pieces filled with imagery, Chopin's Barcarolle in F sharp major was beautiful solely from the notes rising above the piano and filling the room; at one point I looked to my left at Rachel -- engrossed in the music -- and couldn't readily determine which was more beautiful.

Mr. Ohlsson provided a fascinating and engaging conversation with the audience where he discussed Scarbin in the context of Chopin, and got sufficiently excited to warrant an insertion from Scrabin's early period -- Opus 2 Number 1 -- over the objection of none of the asembled group. The two poems left me somewahat wondering, but the pianist's comment at the end captures it better than anything I could have: "Do you find it remarkable that 100 years later, this musicstill sounds new somehow?"

The last piece on the program were the three movements from Bartok's Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano -- a peice that Messers Cohen and Ohlsson first played together at Lincoln Center some 45 years ago while students in New York -- Mr. Ohlsson reportedly has the original music with Mr. Cohen's name and childhood address stamped on it. The emotions evoked ranged from the meandering, uncertanty with stormy rage of the first movement, to foreboding in the second movemnt, and an intense, boncy jaunt through city traffic -- with hints of the jazz era -- at the conclusion.


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