51st Chamber Music
Zhenni Li-Cohen & Matthew Cohen
Piano Viola Duo
Tuesday, March 19, 2024
7:30 PM Harris Concert Hall
A Romantic Evening with the Li-Cohen Duo
Zhenni Li-Cohen makes a much-anticipated return to the Concerts International stage and is joined by Violist Matthew Cohen
Join us for an unforgettable evening of musical delights!
Award-winning husband-and-wife duo Matthew Cohen & Zhenni Li-Cohen present a musical journey through some of the greatest gems of the romantic era by composers such as Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and Rachmaninoff.
Hailed as “…an artist of tremendous conviction, who fascinates even as she provokes…” –Gramophone Magazine
“Mr. Cohen performed [the Bartok viola concerto] with immaculate technique and feeling.”
Rebecca Clarke Morpheus (1917-1918)
Franz Schubert Sonata in a minor, D. 821, Arpeggione (1824)
Johannes Brahms Scherzo in c minor, Op. WoO 2, Sonatensatz F-A-E (1853) -Intermission-
Ludwig van Beethoven 32 Variations C minor, WoO 80 (1806)
Serge Rachmaninoff Cello Sonata in G minor, Op. 1
"In the course of barely 100 years, classical music underwent an astonishing period of growth and evolution. Join us as we journey through this program with the Li-Cohen Duo from Schubert and Beethoven, the first pioneers from the classical era into a new world of romanticism, to Brahms, a composer at the heart of the romantic period, to Rachmaninoff: a progressive romantic with lush harmonies and bold, innovative chromaticism. Finally, Rebecca Clarke, whose music was tragically overlooked due to her gender: an exquisitely talented composer with strong romantic roots but equally influenced by composers such as Debussy and Ravel."
Zhenni and Matthew
About the Artists
Zhenni Li-Cohen’s riveting presence and passionate performances have brought audiences to their feet around the world. Hailed for her “torrents of voluptuous sound...Li-Cohen impresses as an artist of tremendous conviction, who fascinates even as she provokes“ by Gramophone Magazine, “a thrillingly good pianist” by The New Yorker and for her "...big, gorgeous tone and a mesmerizing touch" by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ms. Li-Cohen has performed in such notable venues as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and WQXR’s Greene Space in New York, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Performing Arts Center, San Jose’s California Theater, the Helsinki Music Center in Finland, the Grieghallen in Norway and the Berliner Philharmonie in Germany. Upcoming engagements include concerto appearances with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the National Orchestra of the Dominican Republic, the Fairbanks, Johns Hopkins, and Knoxville Symphony Orchestras, and recitals in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Alaska, South Carolina, and Rhode Island. Deeply committed to the art of recording, Ms. Li-Cohen is passionate about memorializing lesser known works and sharing them with a greater audience as well as traversing the heights of the familiar giants of the repertoire. Fresh off the heels of her critically acclaimed debut album Mélancolie, she is currently working on three different recording projects with the Steinway & Sons label. In Une Lettre, she delves into the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz, a Ukrainian/Polish composer-pianist of the late 19th century whose life was constantly plagued by the horrors of war. Legends of the Phoenix Queen came about from Ms. Li-Cohen’s desire to reconnect with her musical heritage, exploring traditional and contemporary Chinese works inspired by folk songs, stories and historic instruments. In Beethoven’s Apotheosis, the great master’s final piano sonata is juxtaposed with the iconic “Hammerklavier” sonata and 32 Variations. Her difficult early years did not portend a remarkable career. After a year of study with her childhood teacher, she was rejected for lack of talent at the ripe old age of seven years. Intuiting her passion and promise, her father took charge of her music education, learning the piano himself in the process. Eventually, at age eleven, she moved away from home to continue her piano studies while her parents remained behind, working to support her education. Alone in her rental apartment, she spent her free time expressing her emotions through the piano and reading books endlessly. Music was her only refuge, and her prowess soared, until at age sixteen, she emigrated to the United States and was accepted to study at the Juilliard School shortly thereafter, earning Bachelors and Masters degrees in piano performance. She spent her summers in France, leading to a great love and appreciation for French music, particularly that of Claude Debussy, whose Préludes were eventually the subject of her dissertation. After further studies at Yale University, she pursued her Doctoral degree at McGill University in Montréal and began concertizing in earnest, earning worldwide recognition as the winner of the 2017 New York Concert Artists Worldwide Debut Audition, Astral Artist’s 2016 National Auditions, the Grieg International Competition in Norway, and the unanimous 1st Prize at the Concours Musical de France. Her performances have been broadcast internationally on Canada National CBC Radio, Chicago’s WFMT Public Radio, Iowa Public Radio, New York’s WQXR, Norwegian National Radio: NPK P2/NPK Klassisk, Philadelphia’s WWFM and WRTI, Texas Public Radio, and West Virginia’s WVTF. In addition to her solo career, she is a deeply devoted chamber musician. She has collaborated with members of the Aeolus, Borromeo, Jasper, Hugo Wolf, and New Orford quartets and has performed at numerous chamber music festivals including Classical Bridge, Fontainebleau Festival, Kneisel Hall, Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, Music@Menlo, and Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. Her passion for chamber music led her to co-found ”Fishin' in C Chamber Music Series”, a diverse chamber concert series in Philadelphia with the aim of bringing music to underserved areas and “Opus 71 Concerts”, a multidisciplinary concert series near New York’s Lincoln Center. She is immensely grateful to be able to count among her artistic influences many incredible teachers and mentors, including Peter Frankl, Richard Goode, Joseph Kalichstein, Stéphane Lemelin, Seymour Lipkin, Robert McDonald, Mark Salman, and Craig Sheppard, and Vera Wilson. In her spare time, she enjoys learning new languages, looking forward to becoming pentalingual, and traveling and meeting people of different cultures. Ms. Li-Cohen now lives in Manhattan with her husband and two cats, Monkey and Mumu. Zhenni Li-Cohen is a Steinway Artist.
Ukrainian-American violist MATTHEW COHEN is a dynamic and versatile artist whose captivating performances have made him one of the most sought-after violists of his generation. A special prize winner at the prestigious Primrose International Viola Competition, he was also awarded top prizes at the Citta di Cremona International Viola Competition in Italy, Vivo International Music Competition and the Art of Duo International Competition. Particularly interested in advocating for the viola as a unique voice, he is challenging the misconception that the viola has a limited repertoire by bringing attention to lesser-known gems as well as arrangements of other masterworks. Since his first performance in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium at the age of 15 as a soloist in the New York premiere of Tomas Svoboda’s Sonata No. 2 for orchestra and solo string quartet, he has concertized as a soloist and chamber musician throughout North America and Europe in venues such as Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Ford Amphitheater and Broad Stage in California, the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Oregon, Gstaad Menuhin Festival in Switzerland and the Casa della Musica in Cosenza, Italy. Recent solo engagements include his European debut performing Hummel’s Potpourri with the Gstaad Festival Orchestra and Bartok’s Viola Concerto with the I Virtuosi Italiani orchestra in Cremona, and presenting the world premiere of internationally recognized video game score composer Garry Schyman’s viola concerto “Zingaro” with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony conducted by Dr. Noreen Green. Past appearances include concerti with ensembles such as the North Shore Symphony Orchestra, Manchester Summer Chamber Music, Symphony in C, Ensemble Baroquelyn, Juilliard Orchestra, Colburn Orchestra, Oregon Sinfonietta, and Oregon Symphony/Oregon Ballet Theater. A passionate chamber musician, he has performed alongside many distinguished artists including members of the Aeolus, Borromeo, Guarneri, Orion, Parker, Tokyo, and Vermeer string quartets and the Beaux Arts and Tempest piano trios, and has been featured by numerous concert series and chamber music societies including Bargemusic, Camerata Pacifica, the Colburn Chamber Music Society, Heifetz Celebrity Series, Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, Ringwood Friends of Chamber Music, Olmos Ensemble, Red Barn Chamber Music, and the Wolfeboro Friends of Chamber Music. Summer festival engagements include appearances at ChamberFest Cleveland, Gstaad Menuhin Festival and Academy, Heifetz International Music Institute, the Meadowmount School for Strings, Methow Valley Chamber Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, the Perlman Music Program, Philadelphia Young Pianist’s Academy, Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, and the Sarasota Music Festival. A graduate of the Juilliard School's Master of Music program, he was the proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship; he earned his Bachelor of Music degree from Cleveland Institute of Music and received an Artist Diploma from Colburn Conservatory where he studied with Misha Amory, Heidi Castleman, Paul Coletti, Jeffrey Irvine, and Cynthia Phelps. He has served as a member of the chamber music faculty at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada and the Heifetz Institute and is the co-founder and Artistic Director of Opus 71 Concerts, a multidisciplinary concert series near New York’s Lincoln Center. In addition to his musical activities, he enjoys public speaking and has acted in a number of plays including various works of Shakespeare, Peter Pan, Auntie Mame, and the musical Bugsy Malone. His recording of York Bowen’s Phantasy for viola and piano with acclaimed pianist Vivian Fan is available on the Soundset label.