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June 2016 Hot News







15 - 2 July 2016


ChamberFest Cleveland - VIP's Franklin Cohen and Diana Cohen, Directors - Cleveland, Ohio 


Cleveland, Ohio USA


ChamberFest Cleveland 2016 gets off to exuberant, eclectic start (review)




                  The fifth edition of Franklin and Diana Cohen's ChamberFest Cleveland, this year called "Tales and Legends," opened Thursday night in Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of music with a Schumann-centric program (titled "Schumann Fantasies") that found works by the Romantic composer providing the setting for two modern compositions that, in one way or another, evoked the spirit of Schumann.


                  Franklin Cohen opened the program with a fluid reading of Schumann's three Fantasy Pieces for clarinet and piano. Partnered with pianist Orion Weiss, Cohen rendered the song-like melodies with a good ear for the shaping of phrases, imbuing them with a sweet tone, and capturing the vignettes' appealing combination of shyness and exuberance.


                  Kurtag's "Hommage a R. Sch." took the Schuman-esque ethos into stranger territory, a world of Webern-esque aphorisms, condensed gestures and elusive meaning. Written in 1990 by this venerable Hungarian master, the "Homage" creates miniature surrealistic dramas around the "Eusebius-Forestan" polarity of Schumann's musical personality, expressed through delicate brushings of color and one shockingly violent outburst.


                 Clarinetist Cohen and pianist Weiss were joined by violist Hsin-Yun Huang for a thoroughly convincing performance. Cohen also got to put a period to Kurtag's complex sentences with a single soft "pong" on a medium-sized drum set up next to his chair.


                 Schumann's brief Intermezzo from the hybrid "F.A.E." Sonata, a collaborative tribute to Joseph Joachim by Schumann, Brahms and the now-mostly-forgotten Albert Dietrich, was given a poised performance by violinist Diana Cohen and pianist Weiss. It also served as an ingenious prelude to the most unusual work of the evening, three movements from Stephen Coxe's "A Book of Dreams" for accordion, percussion and piano.

The accordion is still an exotic sight on the concert stage, despite a growing body of new works for it, and accordion virtuosa Merima Kljuco presented a vivid image as she performed with her sizable instrument in Coxe's stream-of-consciousness journey through a hall of mirrors, full of half-remembered melodies, Schumann's prominent among them, in a setting of extended performance techniques that found Kljuco trafficking in grating tone-clusters and seemingly improvised outbursts, while pianist Weiss and percussionist Scott Christian brought new layers of technique to their instruments.



                The evening wrapped with a vital, energetic, and revelatory reading of Schumann's oft-played Piano Quintet in E-flat, Op. 44, with pianist Matan Porat, violinists David Bowlin and Alexi Kenney, violist Dimitri Murrath (who had some especially fine moments in the stealthy second movement) and cellist Oliver Herbert. Brisk tempos, intense energy and a thoroughly collaborative approach made for an unusually satisfying performance.


                The "Tales and Legends" theme was in clearer focus Saturday night at the Maltz Performing Arts Center, in a program called "Isaac's Dreams," which delineated in novel ways a number of Biblical themes and stories.


                In addition to works by Haydn, Britten and Osvaldo Golijov, the program featured the world premiere of a piece for clarinet and accordion commissioned by Franklin Cohen from accordionist Merima Kljuco, whom we met Thursday night in Mixon Hall.


               "Miriam the Prophetess" is Kljuco's response to the first prophetess of the Bible, whose story appears mainly in Exodus. Eschewing much of the narrative, Kljuco fashioned a two-part conversation for clarinet and accordion, using a traditional Hebrew scale (Phrygian dominant scale, for those keeping score) to shape the melodies.

The writing for the clarinet is alternately sinuous and exuberant, while the accordion part draws on the full resources of the instrument. Cohen and Kljuco dug into the music with conviction, as they conversed in the slow opening section, while the subsequent dance, evoking Miriam's dance celebrating the drowning in the Red Sea of Pharaoh and his armies, was visceral and convincing.

Elsewhere on the program, Cohen and a string quartet that featured ChamberFest stalwarts (Diana Cohen and Yehonatan Berick, violins, Hsin-yun Huang, viola, Oliver Herbert, cello) gave a knock-your-socks-off performance of Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov's "The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind," a three movement work that celebrates the Kabbalistic theories of the 12th-century Jewish philosopher in a musical setting based on klezmer tropes.


               Mezzo-soprano Marjorie Maltais and tenor Karim Sulayman were beautifully matched with Britten's ethereal canticle "Abraham and Isaac," expertly conveying the anguish and astonishment of the father-and-son pair from Genesis who undergo a trial of faith when a capricious God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son. It was a welcome opportunity to hear a fine reading of a neglected




ChamberFest Cleveland 2016 concludes as it began, with top-notch eclectic nights (review)




                "Once a piece of music is done, it's not yours anymore," said composer Kurt Rohde, whose "...maestoso...misterioso..." for amplified violin and viola and assorted items was given a stunning performance Friday night at Severance Hall, in the penultimate concert of ChamberFest Cleveland 2016.

Rohde spoke in a pre-concert interview on Reinberger's stage of the seemingly myriad ways his piece could be performed, noting that not only are there differences between performances, but even differences between rehearsals and the finished reading.

               Violinist Diana Cohen and violist Yura Lee were the main performers in this evocative and dreamlike essay, while Rohde took on the critical task of managing the electronic aspects of the piece from the front row of the auditorium, manipulating sounds that were created by the violin and viola, as well as an array of tuned gongs, harmonicas, tiny Chinese toy accordions and the ethereal voices of Cohen and Lee.



Rohde's piece traffics in a free tonality wherein striking dissonance exists comfortably alongside moments of triadic harmony. With his laptop and mixing board, Rohde took these human-generated sounds and looped them into a background of electronic reminiscence, while the players traversed a score that took them from exuberant flux to hushed stasis.

The assorted items proved not to be mere gimmicks but important elements in the entropic progress of the work. As the activity of the music slowed to an almost molecular stillness, the emergence of harmonicas and the tiny un-tuned notes of accordions created an almost unbearable poignancy. Cohen, Lee and Rohde masterfully conjured a complete world in the span of 15 minutes, and the only cavil one might have is that the piece was not played a second time.



            Rohde's music was framed between two somewhat disparate works by Schubert, the intense and compact Quarettsatz in C Minor (a fragment of an uncompleted string quartet from 1820) and the gloriously overlong Octet in F Major, written in 1824.


            The Quartettsatz was given an energetic reading by violinists Noah Bendix-Balgley and Itamar Zorman, violist Michael Klotz and cellist Julie Albers, that caught perfectly the scurrying, fugitive nature of the music, not neglecting the song-like sweetness of its second subject, which appears all the more wistful in its dark setting.


            There is enough music in Schubert's Octet in F Major for two or three works of substance. Clocking in at about an hour, this six-movement juggernaut is more than a simple serenade, though it lacks the structural and thematic organization of a symphony (save for a reprise in the last movement of the work's glowering opening bars).

After a few tentative moments, the large ensemble (five strings, three winds) found its sonic balance, and the long journey proceeded with energy and many fine details along the way. The flowing Adagio was rendered nicely, while the Menuetto was given a performance that revealed it as an antecedent to Brahms.



Violinust Yura Lee and clarinetist Franklin Cohen performed in graceful tandem as twin leaders of the ensemble, but no less fine were cellist Timotheos Petrin and hornist Benjamin Jaber, who managed the perilous writing for his instrument with confidence.


             Saturday night's concert at the Maltz Performing Arts Center brought the season to a festive close with some highly inspired programming choices, including a jazz-style arrangement for muted trumpet, violin and pizzicato bass of the Agnus Dei from Bach's Mass in B minor, a brass fanfare by Cleveland-born Eric Ewazen, a magnificent performance of Dvorak's String Sextet in A major, and a fully staged performance of Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du soldat," in collaboration with Talespinner Children's Theatre and featuring marvelous narration by the eminent Dorothy Silver.



             Stravinsky's theater piece, a low-budget child of necessity born in the financially challenged years of World War I, calls for a small mixed ensemble of instrumentalists, actor/dancers who mime the action and a narrator who tells the Faustian story of a soldier who trades his violin (his soul, of course) for material riches that come to him via a book that foretells the future.


             For this performance, stage director T. Paul Lowry and Alison Garrigan of Talespinner devised a version featuring larger-than-life puppets, operated by two specialists who donned the character devices as if they were costumes. They were assisted by dancers in masks, who took on subsidiary roles and also performed the tasks — playing the violin, reading the magic book — that the ungainly but expressive puppets could not.



The septet of musicians were led by violinist Noah Bendix-Balgley, whose part, thanks to the violin in the story, takes on a prominent role. Bendix-Balgley was vivid in Stravinsky's idiosyncratic writing, tearing through the diabolical double stops with aplomb and tartly expressive in a more languid moments.


            Adding to the success of the production were projections on the walls of the former Temple Tifereth-Israel, with moving clouds, falling snow, money fluttering through the air and, in the scenes set in a palace, actually tracing the architectural details of the space to create a brilliantly colored palatial setting.


            Although children under 17 were admitted free for this once-in-a-lifetime event, the length of the production (about 60 minutes) and the lateness of the hour proved too much for some of the smaller children, who were up well past their bedtimes.





12 - 18 June 2016


Claremont Clarinet Festival - Pomona College - VIP Margaret Thornhill, Director, Assistant Director, Dr. Wendy Mazon


Claremont, California USA


                   Margaret Thornhill's 2016  Claremont Clarinet Festival took place June 12-18 on the beautiful campus of Pomona College, in Claremont, California. This year's 12 Festival soloists included current clarinet majors and graduates of Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory, the University of Redlands, the University of the Pacific, U.C. Santa Barbara, C.S.U. Long Beach, the University of Puget Sound, C.S.U. Fullerton, and Oberlin College, as well as mature performers and teachers: Tristan Akers, Jerry Criswell, Melissa Demarjian, Kathy Emery, Jon Harrity, Jason Lopez, Clayton Luckadoo, Charlotte Palmiter, Jessica Ramos, David Sucik, Linda Szeto, Jenna Tatiyatrairong, 

                 A week of performance and study for advanced clarinetists that culminates in three public concerts, the Festival included
masterclasses and private lessons with Festival Director, Dr. Margaret Thornhill, Assistant Director, Dr. Wendy Mazon, and special guest teachers, Michel Zukovsky and David Howard from the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Dr. Mazon conducted a concert of New Music for Clarinet Ensembles,which presented quartets by Ciesla, Hiketick and Fukushima, along with clarinet choir works  "A Study in Contrasts" by Nestico, "Cataract" by Abe, "Five Greek Images" by Rouvas, and "Tico Tico" by Abreu arranged by Morita. The Friday and Saturday recitals, "Clarinet Masterworks" and 'Clarinet Matinee" included works for clarinet and piano and clarinet alone by Bernstein, Bowen, Brahms, Bozza, Gaubert, Kovacs, Lutoslawski, Martinu, Milhaud, Rozsa,Schumann, St Saens, Schickele, Weber, and Widor, and the west coast premiere of a new work for clarinet and electronics by Syrian American composer, Kareem Roustom, "A Muffled Scream," performed by staff assistant, Christin Hablewitz and electronics wizard Edward Park. Pianist-coaches for the Festival were Twyla Meyer and Stephanie Lovell.

               Information about the 2017 Claremont Clarinet Festival and online applications will be available soon at





13 - 17 June 2016


Lift Clarinet Academy -   Wesley Ferreira,  Jana Starling, and Guest VIP Julia DeRoche as Faculty


Fort Collins, Colorado USA




1 - 5 June 2016




Clarinetopia Clarinet Residence Seminar - Michigan State University - VIP's Michael Webster and Guy Yehuda, Directors


East Lansing, Michigan USA


                 The eighth annual Clarinetopia seminar met at Michigan State University, June 1-5, 2016.  Students from near and far gathered on the hilly, wooded campus to immerse in four days of clarinet activities.  The internationally known faculty included co-directors Michael Webster and Guy Yehuda, Ayako Oshima, Steve Cohen, Tasha Warren Yehuda, mouthpiece expert Ramon Wodkowski, and flutist Leone Buyse.  On arrival day, students were greeted at “The Reed Table,” an introduction to reed making and adjustment of commercial reeds.  Everyone became acquainted at the Welcome Dinner, followed by the opening recital given by Leone Buyse, Michael Webster and Genadi Zagor.  A retrospective of Webster’s flute, clarinet, and piano arrangements included music by Dvorak, Husa, Gottschalk, Debussy, Brahms, Fauré, and Grieg.


                The next three mornings began with “Breathing and Stretching” and group warm-ups led by Yehuda, Oshima, and Webster.  Buyse and Webster offered presentations entitled “Owning the Stage” and “Brahms: Appassionato or Amabile?”  The students performed in master classes and student recitals featuring repertoire both standard and unusual.  All of them were open to trying new approaches offered by the faculty; without exception, the recital performances showed confidence and growth.

               Guy and Tasha Warren Yehuda opened and closed their recital with the Mendelssohn Koncertstücke, the basset horn parts played elegantly by Tasha, accompanied by Genadi Zagor.
   In between, we were treated to some music not often heard: Bach/Langenus: Chromatic Fantasy; Mordecai Seter: Monodrama; Bernstein: Riffs; Shulamit Ran: For an Actor; and Anders Hillborg: The Peacock Moment.  Steve Cohen and Ayako Oshima shared the final recital with pianist Lia Wang.  Steve offered the Horovitz Sonatina, his own arrangement of four Benjamin Britten Metamorphoses (originally for oboe solo), and the jazzy Fuzzy Bird Sonata by Takashi Yoshimatsu.


             Few clarinetists would dare attempt Dvorak’s Sonatina in G Major, Op. 100 with the original violin part unaltered in any way.  Ayako Oshima did to brilliant effect, followed by Michio Kitazume’s Shadows IV for Solo Clarinet, which included multiphonics and special effects.  Bassi’s Fantasia from Bellini’s “I Puritani” brought the faculty recitals to an appropriately brilliant conclusion.


             Ramon Wodkowski gave his mouthpiece lecture on Saturday, followed by helping students with individual mouthpiece problems or requests.  Students flocked to him like the Pied Piper and he arranged to extend his stay to Sunday to honor the many requests.  The traditional “Round Table” discussion allowed the students to lead a discussion of questions and topics that had come up during the master classes with the faculty answering questions, offering opinions, and helping to solve problems.  The students bonded together in a short time and added an impromptu clarinet choir performance of a Mozart rondo and the Clarinet Polka to the final student concert.  By the time this report appears in the September issue of The Clarinet, 2017 dates and details will be available at






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Revised: July 10, 2016