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A few months ago, a special issue of Guitarist named Liat Cohen among the world's seven leading classical guitarists. But the Paris-based Israeli musician, who is returning this week for a series of concerts to promote her new disc (with Argentinean guita rist Ricardo Moyano) Latino/Ladino, does not take the honor too seriously.
"I didn't even know about it, some music lovers told me," the guitarist laughed during a telephone interview from London, where she was performing. "It was nice to find ou t that so many people like the classic guitar, but of course this is not what leads me in my work."
Cohen's is a story of persistence and total dedication to her music. Born into a music-loving family of Russian, Polish, Belgian and Iraqi background, sh e vacillated between her two interests, science and music, only deciding during her army service to pursue the latter. After starting her training at the Jerusalem Music Academy, she sent a cassette of her music to renowned Czech guitar player Vladimir Mikulka, who taught in Paris. His response was simple: "Come."
Cohen, then a 20-year-old who spoke almost no French, shared a tiny apartment with a friend. Both musicians, one practiced in the bathroom while the other rehearsed in the living room. Unlike many other Israeli musicians studying abroad, Cohen never received financial support from the Israeli government. Things became easier after she started winning international guitar competitions, and started receiving scholarships from the French and Amer ican governments.
In Paris, she studied with Mikulka, who belongs to the Russian-German school of music making, and with world famous Spanish guitarist Alberto Ponce. Maneuvering between the two, she never told her teachers about her lessons with the re presentative of the competing school, and learned all the ways the instrument can be used. After graduating with honors from her program in Paris, she became the first guitarist ever to win the prestigious Nadia Boulanger Prize, named for the legendary pianist.
Today, Cohen plays regularly all over the world, occasionally coming to Israel. Cohen and Moyano open their tour "Duo Latino/Ladino" at Kibbutz Ein HaShofet tomorrow, going on to Netanya's Heichal HaTarbut in Netanya on Monday. They'll appear at the Inbal Etnic Center in Tel Aviv Thursday and at Kibbutz Maabarot December 3. They'll perform November 30 and December 1 with the Jerusalem Symphony in Henry Crown Hall at the Jerusalem Theater, performing pieces by Rodrigo and Vivaldi.â€º