Cleveland star: ‘I’ll play for those who are gone. I’ll play for those who are here.’

The incomparable Franklin Cohen will step down at the end of the month as principal clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra after 39 years.

He’s not ready to retire, or to equivocate, in his farewell interview.

About current music director Franz Welser-Möst, he declined to comment.

Read more here.

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  • Heard him and the Cleveland Orch. @ Avery Fisher Friday eve in two F maj works – Beethoven 6th and Strauss Symphony Domestica. Listening to their wonderful ensemble playing made me realize that AFH ain’t so bad as it sounds when the home band plays there.

      • McGill has a fluidity and subtlety that is at odds with the brashness and forwardness of the NYPhil sound, what Alex Ross of the New Yorker once appropriately called, in a review of a concert led by Gilbert, the “New York twang”.

        His review, if I recalled, said that if one closed one’s eyes, the NYPhil could sound like the Berlin Philharmonic, until one is reminded by the New York twang of the winds that it is the NYPhil.

        Not a criticism, I like distinct orchestral sounds. Just that McGill would fit better with Cleveland’s white glove sound.

        • What disturbs me most about the NY Phil, is the lack of balance in the sound as well as intonation not quite up to Cleveland’s or Philadelphia’s. Further, the Phil’s principal horn has ruined many concerts for me with his LOUD sheep-bleating. Despite Fisher’s acoustics, I actually heard Cleveland’s strings even though Domestica’s scoring calls for added horns and winds.

  • I can’t think of another orchestra that has had consecutive Principal clarinet players the likes of Robert Marcellus and Franklin Cohen.

  • The Cleveland woodwind & brass section has always had a darker sound than that of the NYPO, dating right back over 60 years to the 1950s with such woodwind principals as Marc Lifschey ( oboe), followed by John Mack; Bob Marcellus ( clarinet); George Goslee ( bassoon); Myron Bloom ( french horn).
    Long-time flute player Maurice Sharp didn’t conform to this ‘dark sound’ unfortunately and for much of the time he lived up to his name.

    • There was nothing “darker” about the sounds of Lifschey, Bloom, or Marcellus in comparison to the New York principals; indeed it could easily be said that their sounds were somewhat brighter than the New York players, though the words darker and brighter don’t have much intrinsic meaning. As for Maurice Sharp playing sharp, cite some examples. His intonation was about as good as it gets.

  • What does FW-M find objectionable in Frank Cohen’s playing? How was he “phased out”? Does anyone know? It doesn’t speak well for the music director, at least on the face of it. The only comparable situation I can recall in recent years was when James Levine worked out some kind of severance package for BSO principal trumpet, Charles Schlueter, that involved his not performing concerts conducted by Levine in CS’s last year in exchange for appearing as soloist in the Post Horn Serenade. But unlike Frank Cohen, CS was not playing at all well.

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