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July 2012 Hot News





27 - 30 July 2012


Clarinet Summer School at Hope University - Andrew Roberts, Director


Liverpool, United Kingdom


The Clarinet Summer School 2012

Facebook The Clarinet Summer School 2012 group




Our 15th year saw us returning once more to Hope University’s Creative Campus, which proved to be an excellent venue for our musical activities.

Several of our returning students commented that the facilities we had this year were the best so far, and I agree!



As always the staff at Hope were really helpful and gave us a first class service, enabling us to concentrate on why we were all in Liverpool, to play the clarinet and enjoy our music making. My thanks to all the team at Hope from the conference office to the kitchen staff.

Chicco and Caroline worked very hard with all the students and managed to make everyone relax and realise some of their new found potential, helped along the way by Peter Salome and Christine, without their continued support the clarinet summer school wouldn’t be the thriving course that it has become.


I am indebted to them all for their hard work and enthusiasm and in a difficult time for me personally, their support.

We managed a first this year in having some family chaperones attending some or all of the sessions, now that’s what I call dedication! It was a really pleasant experience for us and we hope to encourage others to join us in the future.


The atmosphere during the course was always positive and enthusiastic, well ok, maybe not first thing in the morning after along night's study……..

The staff all agreed that this year we had the most interesting and well integrated group of students for many years, so my thanks go to you all for making it an enjoyable course.

Check out the Facebook pages as they will soon have more of the photos from the course.

As we have reached something of a milestone in achieving 15 successive years, we are considering a new name for the course, your ideas on this would be most welcome, suggestions in an email please……

Whatever happens, there will be a course next year and plans will be underway before too long, keep checking the website for updates and hope to see you all next year if not before.


Andrew Roberts

Past students have enjoyed past courses, here is what they have to say...

“IThere isn't much Andrew Roberts doesn't know about the mechanics of the clarinet and how to play it. At the annual Clarinet Summer School in Liverpool he shares this knowledge with enthusiasm and generosity. I have been to four Summer Schools and always come away energised and with lots of ideas about how to improve my playing. More recently his Clarinet Service provided an excellent service.”
Jenny Dale, New Mills

“Andrew, I have finally have a few minutes since returning home to send a short email to you regarding the Summer School. I can't thank you enough for a wonderful week of meeting new people and focusing in on clarinet specific issues in a way that I have never experienced before.
I have taken away a great deal of knowledge and information which has increased my clarinet-playing skills incredibly. I can hear a substantial difference in my sound compared to how I played before attending the course.
Thanks again for a wonderful experience and I look forward to being able to attend another Summer School whenever you end up putting one on again.”

Brad Gresham, Campbellville, Ontario, Canada

“I attended The Clarinet Summer School in 2000. Then, I had some fundamental embouchure and technical problems. Now I am training with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The course speaks for itself- START SAVING.”
Ciaran O’Donnel , Belfast, Northern Ireland

“IMany thanks to the organisers of the 2004 Clarinet Summer School, which once again provided us all with a wonderful week of clarinet-related activities and opportunities!
I can't emphasise enough how much I have learnt from attending this course - the tutors do their utmost to enable everyone to achieve their full potential, and are unfailingly friendly and approachable.
The 'masterclass' format which was used in at least one session every day gave us all the chance to play to and listen to others, and to absorb a great deal of valuable information - even if we may not have realised it at the time!
The 'one-to-one' sessions, when we were given the opportunity to book some individual time with the tutors, were always extremely helpful, and I feel that in this respect the tutors actually go well above and beyond the call of duty - individual tuition at no extra cost does not generally feature on any other music courses I've been on!
One of the week's highlights for me was our clarinet choir's performance in the foyer of the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool on the final evening of the course, which gave a welcome focus to our ensemble efforts. It's only now when I come to write about it that I realise how full our days actually were. Although nothing was compulsory, most people were keen to attend all the sessions available, including a film and talk about clarinet production (a real eye-opener!), a talk on clarinet-related health issues, a demonstration of the principles of the Alexander Technique, a CD listening session comparing different playing styles and an inspirational tutors' concert.
I'd recommend this course highly to anyone who has an interest in the clarinet - I shall certainly be back next year for more!”

Joanna Brown, London
















Wenzel Fuchs Master Classes





Jorge Montilla Master Classes




Cynthia Doggett Master Class



15 - 22 July 2012


International Woodwind Festival (IWWF) - 15 - 22 July 2012 with Artist VIP Faculty Wenzel Fuchs - Solo Clarinetist in the Berliner Philharmoniker, Jorg Montilla - former Solo Clarinetist in the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Venezuela, and Professor at the Longy School of Music, Juan Gao, renowned Soloist, teacher, and Director of the Chinese Clarinet Festival and Clarinet Maker, Cynthia Doggett, Professor at Central College in Pella, Iowa, and Jonathan Cohler, Renowned Soloist and Professor at the Boston Conservatory and the Longy School of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Directors Jonathan Cohler and Dr Doggett, Directors and Faculty are WKA Artist VIP's



Pella, Iowa USA



                  An incredible 8 day Festival at a small Central College in Pella, Iowa, featured one of the most stratospheric artist class training offerings of this summer.   Directors and Artist VIP's Jonathan Cohler from Boston Conservatory, and Cynthis Doggett, Professor at Central College, achieved a certainly world-class program with multiple every day (except 1 day to relax and picnic party) master classes, all video-streamed on the Internet, private lessons for each of the active student participants, major recitals by both faculty and a competition/recital for the students with prizes presented, and much socializing to get to know the faculty and exchange ideas and concepts.  The major faculty including world leader from the Berliner Philharmoniker Wenzel Fuchs,  Jorge Montilla from the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and now Professor at the Longy School of Music at Harvard University,  and 3 major Pianists who coached and performed preparations with the students and performed the faculty recitals.   Benefits to the students were off the charts as the improvements for each were staggering.   One major point, especially in master class situations, is how the students picks up on the coachings and concept advice, and sometimes it takes awhile after he leaves the situation for the light bulb to light up and thus he sees what is really going on for his playing.  There was no question that the students had their act together very quickly and the artist faculty had an incredible amount to offer.  Galleries soon being posted tell the intangible story.    There can be no argument that serious players should avail themselves to come to these programs and buckle in to learn what they can as their playing future depends on this.  Several of these training workshops are offered, and the more that can be attended, the better.








              Not enough credit can be bestowed to the Directors Jon Cohler and Cynthia Doggett and the incredible contribution to the lives of the attending students and bring in such world class luminaries as Wenzel Fuchs, Jorge Montilla, and their support artists.     - a student assessment of the IWWF Festival









21 July 2012


An all-Mozart program featuring the Clarinet Concerto performed by Franklin Cohen, principal clarinet, on Saturday July 21 2012.  Since his first solo appearance with The Cleveland Orchestra, Mr. Cohen has been heard as a concerto soloist in more than 180 performances – at Severance Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Blossom Festival, and on tour across the United States, Asia, and Europe. Surrounding the Concerto are Mozart’s Symphonies Nos. 33 and 41 (“Jupiter”).



Cleveland, Ohio USA



SUNDAY, JULY 22, 2012

Cleveland Orchestra: Mozart Under the Stars (at Blossom)

Mozart: Symphony No. 36 ("Haffner") in D major, K385
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K622 (Franklin Cohen, clarinet)
Mozart: Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio
Mozart: Symphony No. 41 ("Jupiter") in C major, K551
James Feddeck, conductor
at Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls.

There are a relatively few musicians who I follow passionately enough to influence my decision to attend a concert -- virtually all of them are members of The Cleveland Orchestra. Franklin Cohen, the Orchestra's long-time principal clarinet and tonight's soloist is one of those few. In all honesty single-composer programs tend to be much less appealing to me -- had Mr. Cohen not been on the program, I probably would have gone for Sunday's concert instead.

But had I skipped tonight's concert I would have missed a sublime summer sunset with the orchestra and four wonderful pieces from Mozart.

It was a pleasantly warm -- but not hot -- evening, the lawn was full and everything was in the right place when the orchestra started out with Mozart's Haffener symphony. The program note mentions that "...the symphony had originally been intended as a second 'Haffner'serenade to be performed outdoors."and it certainly glistened in Blossom's outdoors. The first movement was festive and energetic with a feeling of an refined outdoor party while the second movement was more subdued and had a more refined feeling of an elegant affair. The final two movements of the piece moved quickly and had an excited punctuation to them.

Second on the program but the star of the show, Mozart's Clarinet Concerto with Franklin Cohen playing the solo part. It was so beautifully and cohesively played that at some point I just let my eyes drift out of focus and listened to the beautiful notes coming off the stage. Though the resident birds kept quiet through most of the concert they added quick cheeps as accents for color. The second movement was a particularly sweet embrace between orchestra and soloist and almost brought water to my eyes. During a long pause before the third movement there was an awkward, if enthusiastic, burst of applause from the back of the pavilion. The third movement reminded me of my weekly walks with no set route in mind -- confidently striding along for a while before reaching a possible fork in the road and pondering the options before surging forward again.

Following intermission, the Overture to The Abduction from the Seragilio may be the shortest piece by Mozart that the orchestra has played at just about five minutes in performance, but it was a pleasant palate cleanser.

The last piece on the program, Mozart's Jupiter symphony was beautifully played but I had a hard time really getting deep into the music. During the second movement, though, I fell in love with the grace of the orchestra's performance acoustically, while watching a moth gracefully fluttering above the strings.

Everything came together and this is what a Blossom concert can and should be.


Mozart, weather and Cleveland Orchestra combine for near-perfect evening

Published: Monday, July 23, 2012, 11:38 AM Updated: Monday, July 23, 2012, 12:07 PM
FEDDECK.JPGLonnie Timmons III, The PDAssistant conductor James Feddeck, seen here in a recent rehearsal at Severance Hall, led a delightful all-Mozart program Saturday evening at Blossom Music Center.

Musicians are notoriously dissatisfied, always believing they could improve. But both the Cleveland Orchestra and its audience Saturday had every reason to be happy.

With Mozart on the program and nary a cloud in the sky above Blossom Music Center, Saturday was a recipe for perfection. Then came the actual music with assistant conductor James Feddeck, and the evening just kept getting better.

Like the all-Tchaikovsky program of last week, Saturday’s all-Mozart concert remained one or two small steps off the beaten path. None of the entries was obscure, certainly, but aside from the great “Jupiter” Symphony No. 41, neither had any of them been performed recently.

Fresh off an historic tour of Europe with the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, Feddeck confirmed once again he’s a conductor to watch. A keyboardist as well as conductor, he presided over performances of both sparkling clarity and palpable collegiality.

Where these traits were most evident together is difficult to say. In any event, the opening work, the “Haffner” Symphony No. 35, was a fine example.

Tidy in the utmost, Feddeck’s performance of this short but mature symphony emphasized the score’s lyrical dimension, with the conductor drawing out smooth lines from the strings and regularly shifting focus to the woodwinds. Yet it didn’t lack for definition. Where needed, the conductor injected healthy doses of vigor and wit.

Similarly, but on a much larger scale, the “Jupiter” Symphony -- Mozart’s last -- saw Feddeck reveling in the sheer logic of a flawless musical structure. The opening movement, especially, stood out in a performance both resolute and graceful.

There were moments in the Finale where the counterpoint, and the transition out of it, turned awkward. But the defect was passing. The rest of the movement was notable for its determination and sweeping thrust. Moreover, in the Andante, Feddeck transcended all potential pitfalls and turned in a performance as smooth as fabric from a loom.

Smooth wouldn’t exactly be the word for the Overture to Mozart’s “The Abduction From the Seraglio,” a lively score full of pointed rhythms and active roles for percussion. And yet Feddeck’s reading of this brief work at the outset of the second half was everything one could ask for: brisk, colorful, and zesty.

No less fulfilling was Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, as performed by Franklin Cohen, the orchestra’s longstanding principal clarinetist. Like the evening itself, in fact, it was perfect in just about every way, and certainly merited the standing ovation it received.

For long stretches of the performance, and the Adagio in particular, there was no option but to simply bask in the radiant, refined tone of Cohen’s clarinet. Elsewhere, the enjoyment was more active. Listening to the opening Allegro, or the concluding Rondo, the only appropriate response was admiration for the soloist’s adroit negotiation of whatever leap, trill or other virtuoso figure Mozart had in store for him.

The concerto was also where the responsive side of Feddeck’s conducting became most prominent. Much of the performance Saturday had the responsive quality of a conversation, a natural give and take between two equals, and that just doesn’t happen in every instance.

Then again, little about the evening could be called typical. The music of Mozart may be guaranteed to please, but consummate performances under ideal weather conditions is a combination that comes along all too infrequently.



 16 - 21 July 2012


Buffet Summer Clarinet Academy at Northern Florida University in Jacksonville - 16 - 21 July 2012 with Artist VIP Faculty Stanley Drucker (New York Philharmonic), Daniel Gilbert (former 2nd Clarinetist in The Cleveland Orchestra and Professor at the University of Michigan,  Andre Moisan (Bass Clarinetist in the Symphonique de Montreal and Conductor), Jonathan Gunn (Acting Solo Clarinetist in Cincinnati Symphony), Ixi Chen (2nd Clarinetist in Cincinnati Symphony), and Directors Mitchell Estrin (WKA Peforming Organization Chairman and Educational and Creative Development Director with Buffet Group), Matt Vance (Woodwind Product Manager wih Buffet), and Francois Kloc (Vice President of Buffet Group USA)



Jacksonville, Florida USA


                  A great annual tradition at Buffet heralding its support for not only the industry building of great professional and student instruments, but to the support of building the support channel for young aspiring and developing players, many of whom will be the professionals and teachers in the future. Not many firms dedicate this investment to this end, and Buffet is the better for its supports.   The faculty stated above, all eminent in their fields as Orchestral soloists and Principals and major University Professors, are all WKA Artist VIP's, including the Directors Mitchell Estrin, Matt Vance, Francois Kloc, Mary Baxter, and Bruce Markin, who is a master technical craftsman along with Mr Kloc, who is Vice President of the Buffet Group USA.


                 The students taking part in this intensive program of five days were pre-selected by submitted audition to qualify, many of whom have taken part here in past years.  Each student had a lesson with each of the five artist faculty, took part in Master Classes all week, and with these activities prepared and performed in a Final student Recital at the end of the week. The most deserving and noteworthy student was awarded the Stanley Drucker Award recognition including a faculty hand-picked Buffet R13 Clarinet, a high honor.  The Clarinet case was autographed by each of the faculty.     Each evening there was a concert program performed by faculty, and one day was free so students could recoup, rest, and visit the Buffet Headquarters and get a tour, try instruments, including the DIVINE Clarinet just introduced.  Faculty also tried the same for evaluations and possible purchase.  


                 The planning and execution of this Academy is a yearlong task of preparation and was handled with logistical precision by the Directors Mitchell Estrin, Clarinet Professor at the University of Florida, and Matt Vance, Woodwind Manager at Buffet.    There are a growing number of similar Workshops at Universities in the US and abroad, and this is certainly with the world-class faculty, one of the most important ones running.  It takes special people with forward looking perceptions and heart to achieve such a great program. 














12 - 13 July 2012

The United States Army Band (Pershing's Own)  Alumni Concerts at the US Capitol with former members and Retired Musicians Conducted by former Conductors LTC Casey, Colonel Gary Lamb, and Leader and Commander Thomas Palmatier


 Washington, DC USA


              The annual gathering of former members and Band retirees who have served in this Premiere Band over the last 60+ years presented two concerts at the US Capitol over two evenings, conducted by Leader and Commander Thomas Palmatier, former Commander Colonel Gary Lamb, and LTC Casey, a former Executive Commander.  Former members were soloists including retired Sergeant Major Norman Brentley, flutist, and Choral Conductor Sergeant Major Barry Hemphill who conducted the US Army Chorus.  Reunion events like this, which are looked forward to at other major service Bands as well, provide a historical tracking back of how the Band was during those times, including the last several generations going back as far as World War II, when the Band was called to serve overseas in the European campaign, and being caught up in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany.  The intangibles of all these memories still resound and the life experiences are shared with each other and present band members.  There was much socializing with receptions and picnic over the weekend after the concerts where mingling and friend re-meeting took place.  This is an annual event veterans come in from all over the country.  All who come are invited to be members of The United States Army Band Alumni Association where continuous contact is maintained.  Anyone having been a Band member is encouraged to join their former colleagues.






 4 - 11 July 2012


Belgian Clarinet Academy with Guest Artist Faculty Robert Spring (Professor at Arizona State University and Major Soloist and Proponent of New Music), Eddy Vanoosthuyse (Solo Clarinetist in Brussels Philharmonic, Flemish Chamber Orchestra and Professor at Ghent Conservatory), Julia Heinen (Professor at California State University at Northridge and Major Soloist and Pedagogue) and Director Guido Six (Founder of the Claribel Clarinet Choir and Professor at the Oostend Conservatory and Past Director of Clar/Fests 93 (Ghent) and ClarinetFest 99 (Oostend)


Oostend, Belgium


By Nicole Moran and Caitlin Poupard



                  The Belgian Clarinet Academy (BCA) offers clarinetists a truly unique musical and social experience, set in the beautiful coastal city of Ostend, Belgium. The 2012 BCA, organized by Guido Six, was no exception to this and offered each student one lesson, and one chamber coaching daily. The students studied with three world-renowned clarinet professors, Dr. Robert Spring, Dr. Julia Heinen, and Professor Eddy Vanoosthuyse, and were exposed to a wide variety of teaching styles and musical input. This rotational system helped to facilitate the maximum amount of creative and technical growth over the week. After a brief audition at the Conservatory in Ostend, students were placed into quartets and assigned a chamber coach for the week. The purpose of daily quartet coachings was to help students develop and refine essential chamber ensemble skills, such as group intonation, musical style, and ensemble performance. Students also attended daily clarinet choir rehearsals, led by Professor Eddy Vanoosthuyse, where they applied and expanded their newly honed skills acquired in quartet coachings to a larger ensemble.


                Students were encouraged to observe other lessons and quartet coachings. These observations allowed the students to learn more repertoire and also observe problem solving skills of master teachers.

In addition to rehearsals, practicing, and lessons, BCA students had the opportunity to make personal connections with musicians from around the world. Many universities were represented in this year’s Academy, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee, and also included international students. Even with the intense daily schedule, breaks allowed the students a chance to socialize and exchange experiences and ideas about music, instruments and accessories. Each night the students were able to explore the city of Ostend and submerse themselves in its unique culture, including the delicious chocolate, waffles and frites.  The students formed extraordinary relationships which continue to flourish much past the time at the Academy.

BCA students stayed with host families who generously and graciously opened their homes and fully immersed the participants in traditional Belgian culture. The host families provided transportation to and from the Conservatory where the students study each day. Many of the host families use the daily transport time as an opportunity to show the students Ostend and relate some of the city’s history. Students ate breakfast and dinner with their families who introduced them to the many delicacies of Belgian cuisine. One free day for sight-seeing provided the participants a chance to explore Belgium. Most students spent this free time with their host families and visited one of the true historical gems of Belgium, the city of Bruges where students spent the day soaking in the beauty and history of the cathedrals and architecture, and also enjoyed the company of their families. By the end of BCA, the students had not only become a part of their host families, but also made friends and memories to last a lifetime.

The last two days at BCA included performances for soloists, quartets, and clarinet choir that featured student soloists.

The BCA concluded its week with a reception for the musicians and their host families. It was a wonderful way to celebrate, and to say final farewells to newfound friends.


              The students of the Belgium Clarinet Academy would like to thank Guido Six for organizing this wonderful, week-long program; Dr. Robert Spring, Dr. Julia Heinen, and Professor Eddie Vanoosthuyse for teaching lessons and coaching the quartets; Geert Callaert, pianist for accompanying all the clarinetists; the host families for providing wonderful hospitality to all of BCA’s participants; the members of Claribel for their assistance with the reception and finally, a special thanks to Buffet Crampon and Rico Reeds for sponsoring this event.













27 - June - 1 July 2012


ChamberFest Cleveland - Big Bang Theory come true with Lincoln Center Class performances every night in four different locations including the Cleveland Institute of Music, festival lead by Artist VIP's Diana Cohen and Franklin Cohen, Solo Clarinetist in The Cleveland Orchestra - 27 June - 1 July 2012


Cleveland, Ohio USA


              A major first supreme Chamber Music Festival, consisting of well themed programs covering a large gamut of literature and instrumental combinations, and unparallel performance standards found in major halls like at Lincoln Center, was held after an ambitious startup a year earlier by Diana Cohen in collaboration with her father Franklin Cohen, Solo Clarinetist and soloist with The Cleveland Orchestra. A true and possibly long-living family and music love affair which can go on for years.   More information about the development is further described and galleried throughout here.  Two reviews from the Cleveland Press are also below and also hyperlinked.


ChamberFest Cleveland takes flight opening its inaugural season

Published: Friday, June 29, 2012, 12:05 PM Updated: Friday, June 29, 2012, 1:28 PM




Participants in ChamberFest Cleveland perform Shostakovich's Two Pieces for String Octet, Op. 11, during the inaugural concert Wednesday at the Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall.



                  A music festival can only be called truly festive when imagination meets lofty artistry. It's already clear that ChamberFest Cleveland is the real deal.

The newest musical endeavor in town embarked on its inaugural season in grand fashion with two wildly different events. The opening concert Wednesday at the Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall journeyed far and wide with works for pianos and strings. Audience members sipped wine and beer and munched on popcorn during Thursday's "Movie Night" at the Wine Spot in Cleveland Heights.

Both events were exhilarating displays of inventive programming and sophisticated music-making. Masterminded by violinist Diana Cohen and her father, Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinetist Franklin Cohen, ChamberFest has set out to offer chamber-music euphoria in a jam-packed series of concerts.

So far, the founders have succeeded in making a "Big Bang," as they've dubbed the inaugural season, by inviting inspired friends to share five themed programs in five days -- a requisite schedule for festival status.

Wednesday's program largely lived up to its title, "Explosive Beginnings," with a menu of early works by major composers. Considering that Mozart wrote his Sonata for Two Pianos in D major, K. 488, at the age of 25 and died a decade later, the score must be deemed middle-period.

Wherever it stands, the sonata is an outpouring of sublime conversations between pianists at two keyboards. The performers, Matan Porat and Orion Weiss, exulted in the discussions and exquisite turns of phrase. Their collaboration was so seamless here, and later in Lutoslawski's ingenious Variations on a Theme of Paganini, that it often was difficult to discern who was playing what (if you didn't peek).

              Porat showed his versatility as pianist and composer in the U.S. premiere of his Fantasy for Violin and Piano with violinist Yehonatan Berick. The music dances with zest before taking a mordant turn.

As darkness descends, the violinist scratches below the bridge and taps the instrument's body. In a disembodied effect near the end, the pianist touches the keys without sounding a note. It's a tour de force that the musicians made a riveting experience.

Berick also nailed the taxing first-violin part in Shostakovich's Two Pieces for String Octet, Op. 11, which the Russian composer wrote when he was 19. As in many of his later works, the activity broods and rages, sweeps and stops in its tracks.

The performance combined emotional intensity with lucid detail, qualities that also pervaded the account of Mendelssohn's Octet for Strings, Op. 20 that ended Wednesday's program. Violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti was the elegant and agile first-violinist, and the ensemble interacted adroitly, especially when tiptoeing like high-spirited elves in the scherzo.

The strings provided Shostakovich with even more abandon and urgency to open "Movie Night" at the Wine Spot. The evening included clips from three Russian films, commentary by composer Patrick Castillo and Cleveland Clinic doctor Damir Janigro, and Buster Keaton's 1924 silent film "Sherlock Jr.," with Porat improvising.

To complement Keaton's delightful antics, the pianist concocted a score that avoided Hollywood cliche. Instead, he devised themes and atmospheres replete with pentatonic writing a la Debussy and dramatic snippets of weighty resonance.


              One of the night's highlights was Lev Atamanov's 1970 cartoon, "Ballerina in a Boat," set to a winsome score by Alfred Schnittke. The ballerina's extended leaps could be viewed as metaphors for ChamberFest, which has taken flight while promising to take up residence in Cleveland's artistic stratosphere




Artistry, energy surround ChamberFest Cleveland's inaugural season

Published: Monday, July 02, 2012, 2:39 PM Updated: Monday, July 02, 2012, 2:50 PM





From left, pianist Matan Porat, clarinetist Franklin Cohen and violinist Diana Cohen take bows after performing Sebastian Currier's "Verge" during ChamberFest Cleveland on Friday at the Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall.



                   By the time Mozart's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings floated away Sunday in the barn at Dunham Tavern, one thing was blazingly clear: ChamberFest Cleveland generated artistic excitement on a level that would be the envy of any international music festival.

The five-day event brought together a sterling array of musicians who presented programs filled with sublime works of the chamber-music repertoire. What's more, ChamberFest's artistic directors, violinist Diana Cohen and clarinetist Franklin Cohen, and colleagues maintained the highest performance standards, while also putting the music in historical context.


             All of the programs had themes, such as "Big Bang," the moniker of Friday's concert and of the festival's inaugural season. If ChamberFest didn't always make a racket, it certainly made a great big impression through artistry of subtle, eloquent and powerful persuasion.

The program Friday at the Cleveland Institute of Music's Mixon Hall began with one of the festival's most recent scores, Sebastian Currier's "Verge" for Clarinet, Violin and Piano. The American composer drew inspiration for his work from "Almost too serious," the title of a movement in Schumann's piano cycle, "Scenes From Childhood."

Currier's poetic and potent nine-movement creation takes the musicians through a series of cliffhangers in terms of tempo and atmosphere. Each piece is packed with vibrant material, especially the jolting "almost too much." The Cohens (father and daughter and pianist Matan Porat supplied the work with nuanced and crisp detailing.

             The influence of Gypsy music could be discerned in the night's other works, Bartok's Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and Brahms' Quintet for Piano and Strings in G minor, Op. 25.


             The Bartok places the pianos in conflict and congruence with a battery of percussion, which add a spectrum of punctuations to the mysterious and exuberant activity. In the incisive hands of pianists Porat and Orion Weiss and percussionists Alexander Cohen (son of Franklin, brother of Diana) and Marc Damoulakis, the score cast a wondrous spell.


             Warm phrasing and cohesive ensemble were hallmarks of the performance of the Brahms, in which violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley was a glistening leader in tandem with pianist Weiss, violist Yehonatan Berick and cellist Ralph Kirshbaum. Their swirling account of the final Rondo alla Zingarese set the scene for a post-concert performance by the stirring Cleveland Gypsy band known as Harmonia.

ChamberFest moved a few blocks away for Saturday's "Rule Smashers" program at Harkness Chapel, where the participants presented works by composers of revolutionary personality. Haydn's String Quartet in C major, Op. 20, No. 2, an early example of the genre played with aristocratic grace, shared the evening with music by Stravinsky, Debussy and Schoenberg.


            Listeners who know the pieces by these last three composers may have missed the colors in the more expanded versions. But the performances were so alert and sensitive that they seized the ear. Franklin Cohen, Berick and Weiss did the ironic honors in the suite from Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat." Cohen was a master of fluidity and dexterity in Debussy's "Premiere Rhapsody" with Weiss as fine partner.

And there was magic in the air -- as well as noise from the Cleveland Museum of Art's Solstice party outside -- when a string sextet breathed expressive life into the anguished and ecstatic narrative in Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night."


            Sunday's finale, "Origins and Revelations," at Dunham Tavern epitomized all that is special about chamber music and ChamberFest. The restored barn is made entirely of wood, even the pegs that hold the building together. The room is compact enough for an audience -- more than 200 on this occasion -- to reach out and touch the performers.


            Beautifully limned readings of Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 7, Op. 108, and Beethoven's Trio for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 70, No. 2, preceded the Mozart quintet, one of the summits of musical achievement. In this excellent acoustical space, and in the supremely polished and elastic artistry of clarinetist Cohen and friends, the piece sent a signal that ChamberFest deserves to be a local summertime tradition.







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Revised: August 29, 2012