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The family that plays together
ChamberFest Cleveland is a family affair

Vivian Goodman
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
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Franklin Cohen’s family plays together, and stays together, especially when it comes to classical music.

The Cleveland Orchestra’s principal clarinetist, his timpanist son, and violinist daughter are on a mission to bring world-class chamber music to Cleveland for at least two weeks every summer.


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Violinist Diana Cohen and her clarinetist father Franklin are co-artistic directors of ChamberFest Cleveland.  Timpanist  Alexander Cohen is one of the 25 participating artists, and the second season is now underway.

Among the highlights: the world premiere of Matan Porat’s  “Start-Time” written for the family trio.

It’s very contemporary and quite rare. Not many pieces are written for clarinet, violin and timpani.

An unusual combo and crazy rhythms
When Diana Cohen commissioned the piece she told the Israeli composer the title of the festival: “It’s About Time”, and he took it literally.

 “In terms of time, he’s written some very complicated rhythms. When he wrote us emails about this piece he said, 'It’s very simple; you’ll just throw it together.’ Famous last words. Three rehearsals later.” 

At rehearsal, they laugh a lot but also hassle a bit about balance. Franklin Cohen asks his son to play the timpani more softly and Alexander says he’s playing as softly as he can.

We were laughing about this yesterday,” says Franklin Cohen. “I said, 'We don’t tell our friends who we’re rehearsing with how to do it or how not to do it. We just happen to be confronted with this very difficult piece to play.'”

“I said last night at dinner, ‘How do you think our rehearsal went today?’ says Diana Cohen.  “And we were just laughing that if we interacted in the same way with complete strangers, people would never play with us again.”

A note of sadness
Franklin Cohen says it’s wonderful to have his children back in town and to perform with them, but sad that their mother won’t hear the music.

ChamberFest Cleveland is dedicated to the memory of bassoonist Lynette Diers Cohen, who died in 2003. She was a champion of new music and one of the founding members of Cleveland’s Red: An Orchestra.

I think she would love the ChamberFest that we’ve created,” says Diana Cohen. “ It sort of combines all her favorite elements of life, which were chamber music and friends and food.”

Some unusual venues
The concerts began late last week and continue through Sunday with an encore of Porat’s  “Start-Time” Saturday night at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

This week the music of Brahms, Ravel, Gershwin, Stravinsky, Messiaen and more will be heard at  six different venues including  the Cleveland Institute of Music, Harkness Chapel at Case Western Reserve University and  the Wine Spot  in Cleveland Heights.

Among the musicians in the festival are violist Yura Lee and cellist Robert deMaine of the L.A .Philharmonic, and some of Franklin Cohen’s students. In addition to being the Cleveland Orchestra’s principal clarinetist, he heads the clarinet program at CIM.

Diana Cohen started playing violin at age 5. She’s now the concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic where her brother Alex, who also fell in love with music at age 5, is the principal timpanist.

Just like home
They grew up playing music together and listening to Cleveland Orchestra musicians playing chamber music with their parents at home.

“We’ve always had people over, eating, playing, talking, having a great time, laughing, crying together.” says Franklin Cohen.

“It’s what the kids have known since their earliest childhood. So life hasn’t changed. We will play our concerts around town and then we’ll probably go home to my house and party and have a great time afterwards. And then we’ll all need a vacation.”  

ChamberFest Cleveland upcoming events:

Coffee and Conversation
Tuesday June 25, 6 p.m.
The Temple-Tifereth Israel, 26000 Shaker Blvd., Beachwood
Composer Patrick Castillo on upcoming ChamberFest concerts.
FREE – no ticket required

Nosh at Noon
Wednesday June 26, Noon-1 p.m.
The Idea Center, 1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland
Sampling of music to be played in the series
Bring your lunch; FREE – no ticket required


Layers: The Architecture of Time
Wednesday June 26, 8 p.m.
Mixon Hall, Cleveland Institute of Music, 11021 East Blvd., Cleveland

  • Biber’s Battalia a 10 in D major, C. 61
  • Norman’s The Companion Guide to Rome (2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist)
  • Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel
  • Brahms’ String Sextet no. 2 in G major, Op. 36

7 p.m. Composer Andrew Norman discusses his work in a pre-concert talk; Post-concert Q&A with musicians


Movie Night
Thursday June 27, 7 p.m.
Cedar Lee Theater, corner of Cedar and Lee Roads, Cleveland Heights
Buster Keaton in the 1926 silent classic,”The General.”  Musical accompaniment improvised by Israeli-born pianist and composer Matan Porat.
Wine tasting and a cabaret-style concert at the Wine Spot, a few doors down on Lee from the movie theater.  (Ticket required)


A Tempo
Friday June 28, 8 p.m.
Harkness Chapel, 11200 Bellflower Rd., Cleveland, Case Western Reserve campus                                           

  • Ginastera’s Pampeana No. 2
  • Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor
  • Gershwin’s Three Preludes
  • Messiaen’s Theme and Variations
  • Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47

-  7 p.m.  Pre-concert talk with composer Patrick Castillo


Riot (Like It’s 1913!)

Saturday June 29, 8 p.m.
Mixon Hall, Cleveland Institute of Music, 11021 East Blvd., Cleveland

  • Porat’s Stop-time (world premiere)
  • Haydn’s Trio in E major, Hob. XV: 28
  • Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115
  • Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, 100th Anniversary.

7 p.m.  Pre-concert talk with composer Patrick Castillo; Post-concert reception with the artists (No Ticket Required)


Sunday June 30, 3 p.m.
Dunham Tavern, 6709 Euclid Ave., Cleveland  

 The concert will be held in this historic landmark’s beautifully restored barn.            

  • Purcell’s Fantasia Upon One Note
  • Purcell’s Chaconne from The Fairy Queen
  • Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 in C major, Op. 36
  • Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 1 in A major, Op. 18.
  • 2 p.m.  Pre-concert talk with composer Patrick Castillo; Complimentary ice cream from Mitchell’s Homemade



Violin:  Noah Bendix-Balgley, Yehonatan Berick, Diana Cohen, Ying Fu, Yura Lee, David  Carroll, Amy Schwartz Moretti

Viola:  Noah Bendix-Balgley, Yu Jin, James Larson, Yura Lee, Dimitri Murrath

Cello:  Julie Albers, Gabriel Cabezas, Robert DeMaine

Bass:  Scott Dixon, Tracy Rowell

Piano:  Orion Weiss, Matan Porat

Clarinet:  Franklin Cohen

Percussion and Timpani:  Alexander Cohen, Scott Christian, Steve Moretti

Composers:  Andrew Norman, Matan Porat

Lecturer:  Patrick Castillo



  • Single Tickets:  $10 students; $25 young adult (under 35); $40 general admission 
  • VIP Festival Pass:  $330.  Priority seating for all concerts, plus entrance to after-parties
  • Festival Pass:  $230.  Access to all concerts and after-parties
  • Pick 5 Concerts, including after-parties:  $160
  • 3 Mixon Hall Concerts at CIM:  $110

For more: or call the Box Office at 216-785-9977 between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. daily.




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