Monday, June 17, 2013


Various venues
June 20 – 30

The festival is a family affair for Diana and Franklin Cohen.

Just a year after its outrageously successful debut, ChamberFest Cleveland has grown quickly into adulthood. The festival has expanded from five to eight concerts, moved into new venues, and opened up its programming to give young artists exposure and audiences a chance to meet and interact with composers and performers.

The only thing lacking is an A-list of stars, the established groups and soloists who normally headline chamber music concerts. But that wouldn’t be in keeping with the spirit and mission of the festival.

The Cleveland Chamber Music Society already does a great job of bringing in groups like the Emerson Quartet,” says Diana Cohen, ChamberFest Cleveland’s executive and artistic director. “What we want to do is create a familial atmosphere not only for the musicians, but for the audience.”

The model for this is Marlboro Music, a festival in Vermont where chamber musicians have gathered every summer since 1951 to play together, trade ideas, mentor young players and occasionally form groups. Marlboro is an egalitarian setting where musicians not only come together musically, but help out with cooking, cleaning and other chores, and bring families along to join in social and recreational activities.

My dad [Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinetist Franklin Cohen] and I have both been to Marlboro, and it was a powerful experience for us,” Cohen says. “The idea of a real community with a strong sense of family was something that we wanted to re-create here.”

The father-daughter combination, along with younger brother Alex, a percussionist, lend ChamberFest Cleveland an obvious family face. But the other players are also part of an extended family, all colleagues and friends of the Cohens who have been invited to Cleveland to form an admixture that proved to be more than the sum of its parts in the festival’s inaugural outing.

Last year we brought in a bunch of people, some of whom knew each other, but a lot who didn’t, and it was really kind of magical to see relationships build throughout the festival,” Cohen says. “There was some amazing chemistry. I remember how exhilarated we felt at the first concert, seeing all these great musicians enjoying themselves. In a way, it felt too good to be true.”

And while the talent may not always be well-known, it is first-rate. This year’s roster of performers includes violinists Noah Bendix-Balgley and Amy Schwartz Moretti, cellists Julie Albers, Gabriel Cabezas and Robert deMaine, violists Yura Lee and Dimitri Murrath and pianist Orion Weiss, to name just a few. Two interesting composers are bringing new work: Matan Porat (also a pianist), whose “Start-time” opens the festival, and Andrew Norman, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his “The Companion Guide to Rome,” which will be performed at CIM’s Mixon Hall on June 26.

Those pieces fit neatly into this year’s overall programming theme, an exploration of time in both a technical and abstract sense. Works like Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time” (Mixon Hall, June 20) will take listeners on far-flung philosophical journeys, while programs like “A Tempo” (Harkness Chapel, June 28), with contrasting pieces by Schumann, Ravel and Messiaen, offer studies in compositional techniques.

Pre-concert talks, après-concert socials and special events like a screening of Buster Keaton’s silent classic The General with live musical accompaniment will give festival-goers a chance to meet the performers, composers and organizers, and become more than passive listeners and bystanders.

We know there are already a lot of chamber music lovers in town, but we hope to create a new culture,” says Cohen. “We want people to be as excited as we are not only about the music, but the process of making it, and to become part of the friendships that are made and the energy that happens when people are making great music together.

If we can create a community around that, it will make us really happy.”

For more on ChamberFest Cleveland, including a complete schedule and ticket information:

For more on Marlboro Music:

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