Next week, the San Juan Symphony has creatively packaged four events around Valentine’s Day. The orchestra has scheduled three exactly on Thursday, and its big weekend concert pair in Durango and Farmington follows. Sounds like a good way to treat oneself to a musical box of chocolates.
At the center of this extravaganza is Franklin Cohen, former principal clarinetist in the Cleveland Orchestra. Cohen’s professional career began when Leopold Stokowski chose him as principal clarinet for the American Symphony Orchestra. Later, he moved to the Baltimore Symphony before his tenure at the Cleveland Orchestra. With close to 200 performances here and abroad, Cohen has an international reputation as one of the world’s finest clarinetists. He has recorded with Decca and Deutsche Grammophon and is co-artistic director of ChamberFest Cleveland, a summer festival that launched in 2012.
On Valentine’s Day, Cohen will give a master class to Fort Lewis College students at 12:30 p.m. in Roshong Recital Hall. If you’ve never observed a master class, sample this one partly because it’s free and you’ll learn a lot about music, the clarinet and how a professional mentor engages students.
Later in the afternoon, Cohen will give a recital as part of the FLC Artist-in-Residence program. At latest report, the program consists of Gershwin preludes and works by Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Guastavino and Poulenc’s “Sonata for Two Clarinets,” which Cohen will perform with his colleague Lori Novato, symphony principal and member of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Cohen will close with the theme from “Schindler’s List.” Pianist Lisa Campi Walters will assist.
Immediately after the recital, Conductor Thomas Heuser will give his usual pre-concert lectures, playing recorded excerpts and sharing nuggets about works on the weekend concerts.
“Latin Nights” is the umbrella title for the pair of concerts in Farmington and Durango on Feb. 17 and 18. The orchestra will largely perform Latin American and Spanish dance music inspired by various forms of the zarzuela, huapango and seguidilla of “Carmen” fame. Works by Manuel de Falla, Enrique Granados and others fill the program. In addition, Cohen will join the orchestra for a rare performance of Oscar Navarro’s Second Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra.
“Overall, the music or these Spanish and Latin American composers is absolutely thrilling,” Heuser said. “It’s intuitive and beautifully colorful. Navarro’s concerto puts the solo clarinet to the test with exotic flourishes, arabesques, and feverishly fast playing.
“Franklin is one of the greatest living clarinet players,” he said. “I expect he will cast a spell that will leave us all breathless.”
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.