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Bowlin-FarringtonClevelandClassical’s Young Writer Fellow, Daniel Hautzinger, has wrapped up ChamberFest Cleveland’s third season in an article for the national website of the Music Critics Association of North America. Read his piece, “Cleveland ChamberFest in 3rd year has convivial vibe” on Classical Voice North America.

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by Daniel Hautzinger

Clara-Schumann“I would write to you only by means of music,” said Robert Schumann in a letter to his wife, the composer and pianist Clara Schumann. Theirs is a storied coupling, beginning against the wishes of Clara’s father, ending with Robert’s mental breakdown and early death, and complicated by their close relationships with Johannes Brahms. All three being heart-on-their-sleeve Romantic composers, and with Robert’s letter in mind, it makes sense to explore this “Love Triangle” through their music.

On June 26 in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Mixon Hall, ChamberFest did just that in a sold-out concert, presenting a work by each of the three with intermingled readings from their letters by ChamberFest Speaker Patrick Castillo (the above quote comes from those). Read the rest of this entry »

By Daniel Hautzinger

Cello-BassA back-lit beer cooler casting its light on rows of folding chairs. Vivacious artwork hanging from the walls. Popcorn tumbling from bag to hand to mouth. The murmur of conversations smoothed by wine. Plus the fine musicians of ChamberFest, having a ball.

On June 25, at the midpoint of its ten-concert run, ChamberFest Cleveland relaxed into the Cleveland Heights art gallery-cum-wine and beer store The Wine Spot for some cheerful short works, wisely enhanced by amplification. For who wants to hear stodgy old Brahms in such a setting? (Though Brahms certainly loved his beer). Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

RachmaninoffJune19-Adams

The third season of ChamberFest Cleveland opened Thursday in CIM’s Mixon Hall, on a beautiful late spring evening. With a packed house and a splendid program, the concert was a third birthday party for this young and thriving member of northeast Ohio’s vibrant musical family.

One of the joys of a festival is the variety of performers one hears on any one night, in this case all excellent. This first night of ChamberFest featured ten musicians – including the festival’s founders and driving forces, Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinet Franklin Cohen and his daughter Diana, concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic. By the time the festival ends next week, ten concerts will have presented 24 musicians from around the world.

After a warm welcome from the Cohens, the music got underway with Rachmaninoff’s exuberant Suite for Two Pianos, Opus 17, a piece of grand pianistic music in the late nineteenth century tradition (the piece was premiered in 1901). Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CFC-June-26-AdamsIn their “Message from The Directors”, ChamberFest Cleveland artist directors Diana and Franklin Cohen write, “According to the Greek philosopher and mathematician, Pythagoras, the number three is the ‘noblest of digits’ because it is the only number that equals the sum of its parts. Like that noble number, ChamberFest Cleveland’s third anniversary season, THREE!, is possible because of what has come before.”

On Thursday, June 19 beginning at 8:00 pm in Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music, ChamberFest Cleveland kicks off its third season with a concert titled Celebrate Three. “This festival has been fun to put together,” Diana Cohen told us during a recent telephone conversation. “We didn’t know exactly where ‘Three’ was going to take us, but I think it’s taking us to a lot of cool places.”

This year the festival has expanded to nine concerts and a new family program has been added. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CHEN-RaySometimes everything works together for the good. On Sunday evening, perfect weather, a gifted young soloist, an engaging program and an energized conductor all conspired to create a memorable evening at Blossom. The soloist was violinist Ray Chen, his vehicle was Vivaldi’s popular quartet of concertos, The Seasons (teamed up with Rossini’s irresistible La gazza ladra overture and Mendelssohn’s scenic Scottish symphony), and the podium was commanded by an old Blossom friend, the estimable Jahja Ling. A large crowd assembled on the lawn and the pavilion was two-thirds full.

Though Chen, who is Australian, playfully suggested beforehand that he might start with Winter and play The Seasons in Down Under order, he began with Spring, as is customary, immediately creating synergy with concertmaster Jung-Min Amy Lee and principal second violinist Stephen Rose in a delightful series of bird calls. Read the rest of this entry »

by Guytano Parks

FEDDECK-James2The weather couldn’t have been any better for last Sunday evening’s concert at Blossom Music Center and the musical fare was just as delightful as The Cleveland Orchestra under assistant conductor James Feddeck (replacing the originally scheduled Robert Porco) presented a concert featuring The Blossom Festival Chorus, three stellar operatic vocalists and clarinet soloist Franklin Cohen.

John Williams wrote his Liberty Fanfare to commemorate the 1986 centenary of New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty. This short, exuberant piece opened the program, setting an optimistic mood with bold playing by the brass, soaring melodies by the strings and rhythmic impetus by the percussion. Feddeck conducted this, as well as the second offering by Williams, a suite of three pieces from the recent Spielberg film Lincoln, with a keen sense of mood and dramatic understanding. The orchestra responded superbly to his every gesture and nuance as the scenes unfolded. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

SMITH-COHENViolinists and pianists — with cellists not so close behind — are the usual suspects for concerto soloists with a symphony orchestra, but this weekend, The Cleveland Orchestra will reach into its own wind section for soloists in concertos by Wolfgang Amadè Mozart and Oscar Navarro. Principal flutist Joshua Smith will play Mozart’s Flute Concerto No. 1 in G under Nicholas McGegan on Saturday, July 20 at 8 pm and principal clarinetist Franklin Cohen will join his colleagues for Navarro’s II Concerto on Sunday, July 21 at 7 pm under the baton of James Feddeck, taking over for Robert Porco, who is indisposed.

Joshua Smith finds Mozart’s first concerto entirely delightful. “Is it on the same level of writing as the piano concertos? No, but it’s Mozart in a young, charming, good mood,” he told us on the phone. “It’s frothy, really operatic in the slow movement, and the minuet is completely fun. The finale is a real gas to play with lots of things bouncing back and forth between the soloist and the orchestra.”

Mozart wrote the two flute concertos as part of a commission for the Dutch flutist Ferdinand de Jean but he never got around to a promised third concerto. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CFC-June-28a-AdamsAlthough the 2013 ChamberFest Cleveland theme is [It’s] About Time, a secondary theme could easily be Variety is the Spice of Life. On Friday, June 28 at Harkness Chapel the superb ChamberFest musicians presented a thoroughly engaging program full of musical variety from start to finish titled A Tempo.

The technically commanding and musically sensitive cellist Robert deMaine began the evening with a high energy performance of Alberto Ginastera’s Pampeana No. 2, Rhapsody for cello and piano. The brief work depicting the Argentine pampas or treeless plains gave deMaine ample room to demonstrate his soulful side as well as his virtuosic prowess. Pianist Matan Porat was a keen collaborator, performing with rhythmic precision.

Porat, together with violinist Yehonatan Berick and cellist Julie Albers, were of one musical mind during their captivating performance of Ravel’s Trio in A minor. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CFC-June-29ChamberFest Cleveland continued to pack ’em in on Friday evening at CIM’s Mixon Hall, when an enthusiastic, capacity crowd gathered for a program entitled Riot [Like It’s 1913]. It wasn’t 1913 until the second half and even then the closest thing to a popular uprising was an immediate standing ovation, but the work that generated the theme of the evening was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Not the big one, but the composer’s rehearsal version for two pianos (played by Orion Weiss and Matan Porat), spiffed up for the occasion with percussion parts arranged by Scott Christian and Alexander Cohen (who played them) and Diana Cohen (who rooted from the audience).

Stravinsky’s orchestration is rich with color and vibrant with rhythm. The two-piano version necessarily sheds a lot of symphonic hues (something that’s obvious from the opening bars, when that strained high bassoon solo gets translated to the keyboard), but the visceral quality of the composer’s groundbreaking rhythms only becomes enhanced on the piano. Add to that five timpani, bass drum, cymbals, gongs and other instruments culled from the orchestral batterie, and the effect is super-thrilling. Read the rest of this entry »

by Nicholas Jones

Harkness-062313After opening with two intense concerts on Thursday and Friday, the musicians of ChamberFest Cleveland 2013 let their hair down on Sunday. This was my first opportunity to attend this second year of Franklin and Diana Cohen’s ambitious and highly successful venture, and it was a pleasure to be there with a hall full of Cleveland’s seasoned musical connoisseurs. In addition, thanks to the festival’s decision to give free tickets to 18-and-unders, there were a bunch of youngsters in the audience.

The first half was for strings only. The concert opened with a Boccherini quintet from Opus 11, the one with the famous Minuet that every beginning violinist learns. It is not a demanding piece, technically, but the excellent players brought to it every bit of their formidable technique anyway. Scrupulous attention to Boccherini’s dynamics made the most of his pre-Romantic expressionism, rich with ebbs and flows. Read the rest of this entry »

by Timothy Robson

Transformer-Station-062113In only its second season, ChamberFest Cleveland is already a summer musical force to be reckoned with. The brainchild of Cleveland Orchestra clarinet principal Franklin Cohen and his daughter, violinist Diana Cohen, the festival is akin to such notable gatherings as Rudolf Serkin’s Marlboro or Benjamin Britten’s Aldeburgh, where the founders invite a “family” of musical guests — in this case, mostly rising artists — attuned to their own artistic goals, with a variety of programming in interesting venues.

The second concert of the 2013 season took place on Friday, June 21, at 9:00 pm (the better to enjoy the Summer Solstice sunlight?) at the Transformer Station, a new Ohio City gallery on W. 29th Street a block south of Detroit Avenue, developed by art collectors Laura and Fred Bidwell in collaboration with the Cleveland Museum of Art. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Mixon-062013The second iteration of ChamberFest Cleveland opened June 20 in CIM’s Mixon Hall on festive, thoughtful and ecstatic notes with music by Matan Porat, Mozart and Messiaen, preceded by a free preludial concert by Sphinx Competition prize-winning cellist Gabriel Cabezas and pianist Orion Weiss.

ChamberFest is an extended family affair that draws a number of close musical friends into its orbit, but its immediate family is Franklin, Diana and Alexander Cohen, an unusual trio of clarinet, violin and timpani for whom Matan Porat wrote an ingratiating festival fanfare entitled Start Time. Ringing changes on ChamberFest’s theme, (It’s) About Time, the short piece gave all three instruments a workout as they joined in and responded to one another after an arresting timpani solo.

The main work on Thursday evening’s program was Olivier Messiaen’s mystical Quartet for the End of Time, a work so emotionally intense that it can fill out an entire concert all by itself without the need for musical companionship. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

COHEN-Frank-&-DianaFollowing on the heels of their highly successful premiere season, ChamberFest Cleveland artistic directors Frank and Diana Cohen have again assembled an impressive lineup of artists who will perform a variety of musical offerings in an expanded array of diverse venues.

Beginning on Thursday, June 20, and running through Sunday, June 30, (IT’S) ABOUT TIME explores the different elements of time as related to the musical experience, through metaphoric and literal representations of musical time. “We struggled a lot with the title,” Diana Cohen told us by Skype. “Our returning guest speaker, Patrick Castillo, had the idea that the title should be about the interesting aspects that exist in the relationship between time and music. We couldn’t come up with a name, then somebody said, ‘so, it’s about time,’ and it stuck.”

Cohen says the decision to expand to eight ticketed concerts as well as increasing the number of free programs this season was not easy. “There was a lot of debate in terms of how much we should expand, in part because what we liked about last season was the fact that everything was sold out in addition to the incredible amount of community support we received.” Cohen says that last season’s audience surveys, which were full of “honest” feedback,  helped them a lot in making decisions about this season. Read the rest of this entry »

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STAFF
Daniel Hathaway
founder & editor
Mike Telin
executive editor
Jarrett Hoffman
assistant to the editors

CORRESPONDENTS
James Flood
J.D. Goddard
Jarrett Hoffman
Nicholas Jones
Timothy Robson
Robert & Gwyneth Rollin
Alexandra Vago
Tom Wachunas