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Lutoslawski Cello Concerto CD review
Dominy Clements - MusicWeb International

The real grist of this review is for the newest of these releases, which opens with Robert Cohen’s stunning playing of those spare, lonely notes which introduce the Cello Concerto. Cohen is up closer than Paul Watkins on CHSA5106, and Cohen’s rhetorical expression is if anything even more communicative - those repeated notes by no means a ‘waiting for’ feature, with each note connected to the next through its own resonance, each recurrence filled with memory and implication. Listen to those little vocal sighs at 1:20, creating a genuine human voice when compared against Watkins’ more abstract playing. The orchestra is again superb as one would expect; the balance between soloist and the rest is detailed and realistic, the initial brass invasion of the soloist’s ruminations brutal, all of those theatrical brushstrokes skilfully eloquent. It’s a shame that this recording is all on one track compared to Chandos’s four, but this is a minor detail. Cohen takes the laurels in this case.

Two reviews of the premiere of Sally Beamish's concerto 'The Song Gatherer':

"New work for cello gets thrilling debut with Minnesota Orchestra"
By Rob Hubbard
Special to the Pioneer Press

How do you expose classical concertgoers to new music? Well, it helps to combine some familiar with the fresh. It's a system that works, if Thursday morning's almost-soldout Minnesota Orchestra concert at Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall is any indication. But the audience may have been surprised to find the most exciting part of the program to be a new cello concerto by English composer Sally Beamish — given a thrilling debut by cellist Robert Cohen.

Anyone reading Beamish's program notes beforehand might wonder if this would be a concerto with legs. The composer created the work specifically for Cohen, tailoring some of its themes to his life experiences. But the end product — which received its world premiere Thursday — is a work of great emotional depth, one that sounds as if it would stand up well to the interpretive approaches of other outstanding cellists.

The concerto's troubled tone is reminiscent of Shostakovich, a thread of tension and anxiety weaving through the work. Asserting his instrument's voice above a menacing orchestration, Cohen was inspiring in his energy, most notably on a first-movement cadenza suffused with unease.

"A touching gift, a major new work.
Composer Sally Beamish gives a great birthday present to her friend, Robert Cohen."
By Larry Fuchsberg. Special to the Star Tribune

November might well be proclaimed "new-music month" for the Minnesota Orchestra and Osmö Vänskä. Last week saw the premiere of Kalevi Aho's extroverted "Minea"; next week's "Future Classics" concert showcases emerging composers from across the country. And this week belongs to Sally Beamish, native Londoner and adoptive Scot, whose new Cello Concerto No. 2, "The Song Gatherer," was co-commissioned by the orchestra for superb cellist Robert Cohen.

Turning 50 this year, Cohen (a friend of Beamish since childhood) wanted a piece that would speak to his journey, not least his Jewish family's flight from Poland to South Africa and ultimately to England. Beamish has given him more than he could have hoped: a major work, probing and allusive, woven from fragments of half-remembered song, tinged with the calls of migratory birds. Cohen, undeterred by the heights to which the composer takes his instrument, inhabits her music -- which, strongest when sparest, sometimes feels improvisatory -- and lets it inhabit him. I can't imagine a better birthday present.

Robert Cohen: In black and white


"It is easy to hear what all the fuss is about. He plays like a God".
New York Stereo Review

"The ideal partner for a composer is an interpreter who not only plays what's indicated, but also discovers what is meant... Such a musician one normally finds in a composer's dreams. Only a few of them one finds in reality, and providing one has the privilege to work with such a magician one experiences that composing makes sense. One of these big, rare and lucky chances of mine and my cello Concerto's life is Robert Cohen".
HK Gruber on their recent collaboration released by BIS just before Christmas.

"An individual, and an exceptionally gifted one".
Washington Post

"Robert Cohen has a feeling for Elgar...which raises him to the level of the greatest".
Diapason. France

"Lovers of fine string playing should drop everything".
The Guardian

"The musicianship of Robert Cohen has got the same almost scary magical presence of Jacqueline Du Pré at her best".
Helsinki Sanomat

Press reaction to the Finzi Cello Concerto

Robert Cohen, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Paul Daniel
Cadogan Hall, London 2008

“with such impassioned playing from Cohen, equally convincing in the declamatory episodes as in the lyrical rapture, the concerto almost feels like Finzi’s large-scale masterpiece…Cohen’s championship is hugely welcome.” John Allison, Sunday Telegraph

“Robert Cohen was a magnificent soloist, and a very persuasive advocate for this demanding work; he played it as if he’s been playing it all his life. His interpretation of the lyrical music – and there is a lot of it in this work – brought out the songlike quality of Finzi’s ideas, and if there’s one thing Finzi’s music does do, it sings.” Bob Briggs, Seen and Heard

“Strong emotions are at work in this music. Cohen, the RPO and conductor Paul Daniel expressed them forcefully, allowing the passion full rein and cosseting the more tender, calmer moments of the central andante.” Geoffrey Norris, The Telegraph

“Two thirds of Gerald Finzi's Cello Concerto - his last major work, first performed in 1955 - is an outstanding score, as fine as anything composed for the instrument since Elgar's concerto. ... a tone of regretful nostalgia haunts the first two movements. But that is blown away by the forced jauntiness of the finale, a parading of the proverbial English stiff upper lip that doesn't transfer well to music. Yet, as Robert Cohen's passionately eloquent performance with the Royal Philharmonic in the orchestra's English music series showed, much of what precedes that problematic last movement is remarkable: Finzi's particular brand of lyricism is as finely focused here as anywhere in his output, and the central andante's fleeting references to the Angel's music from Elgar's Dream of Gerontius are immensely touching.” Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Robert Cohen on the Finzi Cello Concerto (published in the concert programme):

Hidden in the soulful repertoire for cello and orchestra is Finzi's Cello Concerto. Hidden only because Finzi suffers the neglect caused by the phases of fashion - as many other composers do too. Phases not created by musicians, audiences or promoters, but by the consequence of time; new music is introduced and some older music is then revived only periodically. Otherwise such a grand, powerful and moving work would maintain its rightful place in mainstream concert programming.

And so it is a special pleasure to reveal to you a concerto in which Finzi has used the enormous emotional and dynamic range of the cello to express his passionate feelings.
It is a work not dissimilar in its 'Englishness' to the Elgar concerto and in its colouring to the Walton. I find great excitement playing the great sweeping gestures, juxtaposed with the most tender and delicate of phrases. The first two movements are quite heartbreaking, with many moments seeming to reflect a dying man's poignant memories of his life.

Be ready for innovation too; the opening of the last movement uses the most unusual pizzicato writing as a bridge from the breathtaking end of the slow movement to the optimistic and uplifting finale. You will undoubtedly go away in an ebullient mood!


Robert Cohen conducts & directs Orquesta Sinfónica de Murcia
Cello Concerto in D, Symphony No.45
Cello Concerto in C

The Fabulous Robert Cohen. The two concertos served to demonstrate Robert Cohen’s fantastic interpretative superiority. The whole programme had an interpretation of the highest quality, thanks to the skill of the British cellist. The magnificent art of Cohen gave ideal impetus to the stimulating and disciplined performance in a repertoire which for him, held no secrets. He was able to play on a point of maximum virtuosity and from a personal and emotional level in which elegance, conjuring, style and brilliance came together in such a heartfelt way that the applause was interminable. The artist received this applause and acknowledged his accompanists with a gesture of humility, which elevated even more the tone of magnificence of this consummate performer.

La Sociadad


Suntory Hall, Tokyo.The Sapporo Symphony Orchestra with conductor Tadaaki Otaka
Elgar cello concerto.

Cohen had recorded this concerto as 19-year-old and this recording sold alone in Great Britain 250.000 copies.... the passionate playing of Cohen healed the ears. One could feel the self-confidence of a soloist who had such experience with this piece. He created a unity with the orchestra and his cello sang with full emotion.... Cohen invited the audience to enter the meditative, Requiem-like world of Elgar, full of deep sadness.

Yoshiko Ikuma, music journalist
Hokkaido Shinbun

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