Sunday, February 21, 2010

Franklin Cohen and Friends (First Unitarian Church of Cleveland)

In Memory of Lynette Diers Cohen (1948-2003)
Hindemith: Clarinet Quintet, op. 30*
A Rememberance from Alexander Cohen
Bach: Giga from Partita #3**
Bach: Largo from Sonata #3**
Bach: Sonata in C Minor for Violin and Keyboard***
Weber: Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, op. 34
* - Franklin Cohen, clarinet; Isabel Trautwein, Sae Shirigami, violins; Joanna Patterson, viola; Tanya Ell, cello.
** - Diana Cohen, violin.
*** - Diana Cohen, violin; Stanislav Khristenko, piano.

I had heard about this concert last weekend before the Heights Chamber Orchestra concert. As a fan of Mr. Cohen's playing, the name alone was enough to get me through the door, add a handful of very talented Cleveland Orchestra musicians who joined him and you have a solid foundation for a great concert. But we're getting ahead.

Before the sanctuary opened for seating the narthex, isolated by heavy wooden doors was filled with the rich sounds of energetic rehearsal and conversations amongst guests about the memory of Lynette Cohen, the late wife of Mr. Cohen. It was obvious that she was warmly regarded and deeply missed by the assembled, as stories were traded with a smile, a wink, and a nod.

Mr. Cohen remarked in advance of Hindemith's Clarinet Quintet that despite his considerable experience, he had never heard let alone played the piece. Listening to the piece's complexity and demands on the clarinetist it's easy to understand why it would be seldom preformed--also impressive is that, with the exception of a single note, the first and fifth movements are exact mirrors of each other, though the third movement was probably my favorite.

Percussionist Alexander Cohen read a stirring commentary originally written by his mother.

Completing the splendid musicality of the Cohen family, the impressively accomplished and quite talented Diana Cohen played the solo largo from Bach's third sonata, and the Sonata in C-minor. I was stunned by the incredible clarity and delicate passion with which she played both pieces, the latter accompanied by Mr. Khristenko on piano. The largo was quite stirring, and the counterpoint between keyboard and violin in the sonata couldn't help but conjure images, if slightly, abstract, of a dance between the instruments. It was particularly interesting contrast for me compared to last night's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in Akron. I was a bit disappointed that the Giga from Partia #3 was cut, but appreciated Ms. Cohen's explanation of the significance of Bach to the program

The program ended with what Ms. Trautwein described as the dessert course in Weber's Clarinet Quintet, with the clarinet the clear focus of the work and the strings largely left as accompaniment; the fifth movement rondo was a particularly uplifting way to end the concert.

During the following reception it was once again abundantly clear how, some six years later and on the eve of her 62nd birthday, Mrs. Cohen is remembered by the community, with her husband and children providing a particularly touching tribute through an afternoon of well-played music.


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