Academy alum gives
classical music boost
in New England
Music, particularly classical chamber music, creates a deep intimacy between human beings that can rarely be found in other media. It inspires the performer and listener alike. For several years, Hebron Academy alum Saul Cohen has supported these ideals for young musicians and public enjoyment through the Cohen Concert Series at the school.
This Friday’s concert, free to the public, will showcase the relationships that music produces between old and new, acoustic and electronic, student and professional, patron and performer. The program will feature “Sonata for Violoncello and Piano” by Claude Debussy, “Out of Doors for Piano Solo” by Béla Bartók, “Mutations for Cello and Computer” by Chris Arrell, and “Sonata for Piano and Violoncello in G Minor” by Frederic Chopin.
“Young people should hear music, see it, not think it ‘s for gray hairs only,” said Cohen. “Music is one of the riches of our civilization and something to broaden their experience. I also wanted to support young professionals at the earliest stages of their careers when they need visibility and also need a few bucks.”
A 1951 graduate of the private boarding school, as well as a graduate from Harvard’s Business School, Cohen has used his subsequent good fortune to bring world-class music throughout New England. He started the Hammond Performing Arts Series in Boston to give professional classical musicians exposure to the public. He also is an active supporter of the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music School and Festival in Blue Hill. In addition, he sits on the advisory board of Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, where he met Jan Müller-Szeraws, the featured cellist for the Cohen Concert Series.
“I met Saul when I was a student at Boston University,” said Müller-Szeraws, now 38.”He heard me play, and he was very gracious to me.”
Cohen thought enough of the young cellist to underwrite a grant from the Saul B. and Naomi R. Cohen Foundation, that provides the Hebron Academy concert series as a venue for Müller-Szeraws and other young professional musicians to play. He also wanted to give back to the school that he said had done so much for him. Cohen’s largesse continued with the loan of a rare and valuable cello crafted by David Tecchler in 1717.
“A professional musician needs a concert quality instrument,” said Cohen. “And the time they need it the most is early in the career when they can least afford one.”
For Friday’s concert, Müller-Szeraws will play this incredible instrument, which he called “a great honor,” in a duo program with pianist Adam Golka. Golka made his Carnegie Hall debut in 2010 and met Müller-Szeraws at a music festival in Virginia. They recently completed a recording project and have played several concerts together. Playing professionally has also connected Müller-Szeraws with Chris Arrell who composes pieces to be performed electronically.
“It is a very fascinating new sound world,” said Müller-Szeraws. “From my perspective, it is important for musicians to explore contemporary new possibilities while at the same time honoring the traditional repertoire. They are contrasting but also complimentary.”
Müller-Szeraws explained that the contemporary composition “Mutations” by Arrell, which will be performed in the second half of Friday’s program, includes prerecorded sounds that interact with the cello to produce a live hybrid sound as if the computer were another musician.
“Not everybody goes to a concert to be a musician or to appreciate the performance from a musician’s perspective,” said Müller-Szeraws. “But it is the job of the performer to a bring a common experience to the audience. It’s not just a presentation or a one-way communication.The attention and energy that the audience brings to a live concert is an incredibly beautiful thing. It cannot be replaced by a recording. For the audience, especially students, hearing a piece one time may not be enough, but it may spark an interest to hear more and to find the relevance of music in their own lives.”
The concert begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Lepage Center for the Arts.
Go and do
What: Cohen Concert, cellist Jan Müller-Szeraw, pianist Adam Golka and computer composer Chris Arrell
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Lepage Center for the Arts, Hebron Academy, 339 Paris Road, Hebron
Free to the public