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2023 Salish Sea Early Music Festival
~ Period Instrument chamber music from six centuries around the Salish Sea ~

SSEMF Reviews

SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL (, England) and VANCLASSICAL MUSIC (, Vancouver, BC)   •  May 5, 2016
   "Adventurous Bach Arrangements from Jeffrey Cohan and the Salish Sea Festival"
   CANADA - J.S. Bach: Jeffrey Cohan (baroque flute), Ingrid Matthews (baroque violin), Hans-Jürgen Schnoor (harpsichord), Ryerson United Church, Vancouver (April 17, 2016)
         "Taking me back to Bach’s days immediately was Cohan’s art (and indeed, zeal) in transcribing and rearranging compositions to suit whatever instruments happened to be present. ...I found these experiments stimulating, somehow giving a glimpse into the diversity of styles that might have been present in the renderings of Bach’s day. This was not the type of ‘ultra-considered’ Bach that one often associates with the authentic tradition nowadays. While sometimes finding a quiet peacefulness, this was playing with an expressive ardour and passion, not least because harpsichordist Hans-Jürgen Schnoor has a distinctly rhapsodic style, mixing ample rubato with a colourful virtuosity. I have seldom seen a more fleet-fingered, passionate performance of the short Chromatic Fantasia (BWV 903) than Schnoor gave between the two sonatas. Violinist Ingrid Matthews is very accurate stylistically, and often brings an uncommon expressive life to her phrases. Jeffrey Cohan is in some ways the most objective of the trio, guiding the music with true sensibility and taste.
         In this form, [the Sonata BWV 1027/1039] almost feels like a miniature Brandenburg Concerto. In the first two movements, Cohan brought the ensemble to a lovely peace and flow, and a distinguished structural poise. Ingrid Matthews in turn brought both feeling and commitment to the Vivaldian Adagio and unbridled flair to the closing Presto. This violin adaptation was a genuine success, and some of the writing for this part actually took me closer to Bach’s famous concertos for the instrument than his sonatas. The impetuosity of some of Schnoor’s continuo playing was distinctive.
         The major work of the evening was the Musical Offering, and there are many instrumental variants to pick from here. I believe this was the first time that I have heard the glorious ‘royal theme’ initiated on the flute, but with only three instruments involved a core role was naturally assigned to the harpsichord. Again, it took a while to get used to Schnoor’s rhapsodic style and sheer speed ...Nonetheless, I eventually understood that the harpsichordist’s objective was to move the work through ‘blocks’ of colour and, from this perspective, I could see its innovation. The Trio Sonatas were the highlight, with real depth of expression. There was colour too: a sinewy, rustic fabric from the violin and harpsichord that played off splendidly against the refinement of Cohan’s flute. Ingrid Matthews absolutely excelled in bringing out the restrained, bittersweet feelings involved and often found a raw haunting beauty.
         I found this performance moving. There is something remarkably ‘true’ that flows from Jeffrey Cohan and the Salish Sea.”
     — Geoffrey Newman  •  and

THE SUN BREAK (, Seattle)   •   April 25, 2016
   "Bach’s ‘Musical Offering’ Given by Salish Sea Early Music Festival"
         "It’s always a delight to hear musicians as steeped as these three in Baroque performance practice, all consummate performers in Bach’s intricate tapestries of interweaving lines, canons, and musical embroidery."
     — Philippa Kiraly

REVIEW VANCOUVER (, Vancouver, BC)  •  April 5, 2016
    "Salish Sea Early Music Festival: Late 18th-Century: Clavichord & Flute"
         "Lebedinsky explored a sweeping micro-range of effect and colour while Cohan’s flute flew around, always sensitive to the delicate gestures of the keyboard and exhibiting a vivid sense of exploration and enthusiasm.
         ...Elegance, charm, superb technique and warm expressivity characterized the playing. Lebedinsky’s lively realizations of the figured bass parts were captivating and fully in metaphorical as well as literal harmony with the flute."
         Overall, this program brought to life unfamiliar music or music by unfamiliar composers with daring and intelligent playing, infused with variety, emotion and beauty."
     — Elizabeth Paterson  •

REVIEW VANCOUVER (, Vancouver, BC)  •  June 2015
    "Philidor's The Art of Modulation"
     (Jeffrey Cohan, baroque flute, Linda Melsted, violin, Stephen Creswell, viola, Jonathan Oddie, harpsichord)
         "A lively and challenging programme ... immediately conjuring up the shining, quirky music of the baroque. ...elegant, thoughtful conversation between the instruments ... intellectually gripping and as full of nerve-tingling modulations. ... The opening Allegro [Blavet] is rapid, full of leaps, double tonguings, long phrases and ornaments which Cohan negotiated with stylish brio ... a widely expressive technique full of nuance and subtlety. ... A stylish and very engaging ensemble. Their playing is impeccable in its ornamentation and articulation and sensitive to the emotional core of the music ... but beyond that they play with great verve and obvious delight in the music."
    — Elizabeth Paterson  •

VANCOUVER CLASSICAL MUSIC (, Vancouver BC)  •  January 2015
     "A Lovely Baroque Divertissement from Brotherton, Cohan and Stubbs"
         "A remarkably intimate and refreshing experience. • There was joy and love aplenty here, quite irresistible in its sense of innocence and spontaneity. • ...let me acknowledge, first off, just how well the underpinning of Cohan and Stubbs brought out the variety and motion of this work. • Jeffrey Cohan has such quickness and dynamic range, such a keen control of accents, and such mastery at floating the soft limpid phrase that the combination with Stephen Stubbs’ own brand of structural solidity and insight gave us something pretty special indeed."
    — Geoffrey Newman, VANCOUVER CLASSICAL MUSIC   •

MUSIC IN VICTORIA (, Victoria BC)  •  February 2014
    "Emanuel Bach Tricentennial"
         "It was one of those filthy late winter evenings when blasts of icy rain make it almost unthinkable to head outside, but, for the slightly smaller than usual audience who had braved the elements, the reward was as dreamily exquisite as an invitation from Oberon, delivered by Puck himself to enter a world of tender and brilliant magic.
         It would be hard to imagine two musicians better suited to convey the double aspect of the keyboard performer/composer who, in his own estimation "thought too much", and undoubtedly embodied too much feeling according to the naysayers of his day. ...We were lucky indeed in Victoria to be treated to such an evocation of C.P. Emanuel Bach's early mastery and promise of things to come by two of his countrymen who met in Germany on a bicycle trip over 30 years ago, deeply influencing each other musically, and performing together at least once very couple of years ever since. On this occasion with the Seattle-based string ensemble, Nouvelle Simphonie, about whom, more later.
         This is not the first time I have attended a concert in which the programme was shared between works by both JS and CPE Bach, nor the first time I have found myself enjoying the work of the son just as much, if not occasionally more, than the father. It is the first time though that I have had an inkling of why that should be. Emanuel Bach shared the prodigious keyboard talent of his father - he could sight read any of his keyboard works by the time he was ten. But where his father's analytical brilliance lay in his ability to exploit the infinite structural possibilities of tone and scale in his well-tempered instruments and the mathematical delights of contrapuntal harmony, Emanuel, also a brilliant improviser, was equally drawn to music's power to express with intricate detail and great subtlety a depth of feeling that had suffered an eclipse since dawn of the era of mind enlightened by reason. Like Goethe and many other writers, artists and composers, he was to usher in a reasserted value for sensitivity, emfindsamkeit. The two concerti on Saturday night's programme were composed early in his career, in the years of the births of his first two children, leading me to suspect that the tender joy expressed in them has something to do with he himself becoming a father: Johann Adam, named to honour his grandfather, and Anna Carolina Philippa to honour her grandmother and CP himself.
         The concert opened with JS Bach's Suite in B-minor for flute and strings with harpsichord and cello continuo. From the stately and elegant ouverture through a collection of dance forms to the concluding badinerie, Schnoor's light and effortlessly agile touch and bubbling cadences formed a perfect backdrop to Cohan's swaying dance between the strings, his tone seamlessly married to the violins, the softness of his flute emerging in and out of a tapestry of sound in a kind of humorous hide-and-seek. A music so refined, it draws and draws, yet never swamps the senses.
         The first of CPE's works, the Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor opened with a furious flurry from the strings before giving way to an exquisitely compelling florescence of sound in the silvery bell tones of the harpsichord, an instrument from Northern Germany with a much softer tone than the crisper, brighter ones favoured in the south, and perhaps more familiar to us. The enormous presence of Mr. Schnoor as he covered the entire instrument with his solo statement, creating a universe of sound, was immediately apparent. In the second movement, un poco andante, the angelic voice of the harpsichord like a promise answering the longing of the viola and violins with an almost unbearable sweetness. The third allegro movement concluding with a sense of joyful anticipation, the spotlight shifting between the harpsichord and the strings with the startling clarity of a pointillist painting.
         After the intermission the musicians returned for the second of Emanuel Bach's works, the Concerto for Flute in D MInor. Here the robust quality of the strings in relation to the flute evoked an image of the stoutly protective bud enclosing, and opening to reveal the soft drape of rose or poppy petals. Visually, the tableau including the Puckish dancing of Cohan and the rapt attention as if every note were a longed for gift, of the violist, Steve Creswell only added to the sense of transport offered by the music. The third allegro offered a rhapsodic ode to the joy of flight in an upwelling of apparently unbreathed sound to an outpouring of applause from the audience.
         The Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 brought the programme to a close, Cohan's flute flitting here and there like a light in the trees, spume above surges from the violins, while in his opening solo, Schnoor's heightening intensity of pure invention compelled every hair follicle of attention. In the Afetuoso section the violins cut arcs of beautifully mellow sound, while the flute filled cups of ambrosia before developing a more sonorous tone to match the richer, fuller strings. For the final allegro on a rich tapestry of tones and lively dancing, the flute was sometimes a presence, a nuance, a quality, a colour, hiding then emerging to a sublimely confident finish, utterly and quietly assured.
         The audience was extremely appreciative, yet such was the virtuosity and technical brilliance of Hans Jürgen Schnoor and Jeffrey Cohan, combined with a spell-binding understatement, I couldn't be quite sure I hadn't dreamed it all."
     — Elizabeth Courtney  •

The Salish Sea Early Music Festival evolved from Concert Spirituel, which since the early 1980s in Seattle and Chicago has featured harpsichordists Elisabeth Wright, George Shangrow, David Schrader and John Whitelaw (Belgium), violinists Stanley Ritchie and Jorg Michael Schwarz, lutenists Stephen Stubbs and John Schneiderman, gambists Susan Napper, Mary Springfels and cellist Elaine Scott Banks. Unpublished works from the Library of Congress and other libraries and unusual instruments and instrumental combinations that were familiar in earlier times are given particular attention. From 1725 until 1790, the Concert Spirituel in Paris offered outstanding sacred, orchestral and chamber music performances presented by the leading instrumentalists and composers of Europe, featuring the most innovative new music of the day. In this spirit we are excited to present the annual Salish Sea Early Music Festival.

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