Entertainment Review: Sounds like our music

In Liat Cohen’s case there is a strong argument for the pre-mapped view of her career choice.

Sounds like our music (photo credit: AVSHALOM LEVY)
Sounds like our music
(photo credit: AVSHALOM LEVY)
Whether our lives are predestined could be a matter of personal belief, religious faith, fatalism or gradually emerging consciousness. Naturally, that could all be a load of bologna, and we simply make our way along our ever-meandering long and winding road as we see fit at each juncture.
In Liat Cohen’s case there is a strong argument for the pre-mapped view of her career choice. Cohen is one of the leading lights on the global classical guitar circuit, and is scheduled to perform in two slots at the forthcoming Isrotel ClassiCameri Festival which will take place in at the Royal Beach Hotel Eilat January 1-5.
The five-day program takes in a wealth of works from across a broad sweep of eras, styles and genres, including operatic fare, offerings from the classical and Romantic eras, and plenty to keep fans with eclectic and non-classical preferences happy too. As usual, the Ra’anana Symphonette Orchestra and artistic director Omer Welber will be front and center for much of the festival, with the likes of veteran pop pianist, flutist-vocalist Shem Tov Levy, singer-songwriter Shlomi Shaban and Irish music outfit The Bloomers catering for numerous tastes.
In Cohen’s case it would be hard to say she followed in her footsteps, at least not knowingly, but it eventually transpired that is exactly what she did. The internationally acclaimed classical guitarist was born several months after her father was killed in 1971, in the War of Attrition. She did not know much about him although she did see the odd photograph of him, more often than not with a guitar in his hands.
“Yes, I probably inherited something from my father,” Cohen concurs. “He not only played the guitar, he also wrote songs. I discovered his output at a very late stage of my life. I knew he played guitar but I thought it was like most homes that have a guitar lying around somewhere.”
Cohen found out just how talented and serious her father was about his music by chance.
“When I found out how serious a musician my father was I was 35 years old and already had a PhD in guitar,” she notes. Cohen’s mother remarried, and had two more children although, sadly, several years later she and Cohen’s stepfather divorced. However, had it not been for that unfortunate turn of events, Cohen’s biological father’s artistic gifts, and legacy, may have stayed consigned to the recesses of human memory.
“Unfortunately, my parents separated and sold the house,” Cohen explains. “When they were about to lock up the house my stepfather asked my mother if she checked if there was something in the attic. She said that even if there were, it would probably have been scorched by then because the roof was made of tiles. But my dad said he’d go up and take a look anyway.”
That turned out to be a wise move. When Cohen Sr. peered into the attic he saw a large box.
“It was full of things of my biological father,” Cohen says. “There were 200 photographs of him. And there were reel tape recording of him singing and playing, dozens of letters he and my mother wrote to each other before they married, and even bits of songs he wrote on slips of paper and cigarette packets.”
Finally, Cohen got to hear the voice of the father she never met. She also managed to find a reel-to-reel tape recorder so she could hear him sing.
“And in the majority of the photos of him he had a guitar with him,” Cohen adds. “So I realized that, for him, the guitar wasn’t just a play thing.” Cohen’s choice of guitar, when she was seven, turned out to be an inspired, DNA-fueled choice.
Over the years Cohen has played a wide range of material, naturally including the works of Bach, Vivaldi and other giants of the classical world. But she also spreads her talents across more contemporary fare, including scores she commissions from Israeli composers, and others that feed off all kinds of cultural and ethnic baggage. Her January 3 (4 p.m.) Pleasure and Pain concert sees her team up with countertenor Yaniv d’Or in a program based on an eclectic ambit of Spanish and French works written by the likes of de Falla, Ravel, Fauré, and French Romantic Era composer Jules Massenet, and even traditional Ladino songs. On the morrow, Cohen will perform in the Six Strings of Glory show along with cellist Hillel Tzeri, with Nimrod David Pfeffer presiding over the Ra’anana Symphonette. The concert takes in a wide temporal and stylistic framework, from the Baroque era through to the 20th century.
As far as Cohen is concerned, it is all just music, irrespective of labels and categories.
“In music you don’t have gender and such like. The more you play music the more you realize that every style is impacted by previous styles and eras. Baroque music, for example, and contemporary South American music have the same structures. I think that is wonderful. If you have the knowledge you get understand the system and that allows you to work in many areas. That’s great. That gives you so much freedom.”
At the end of the day, for Cohen it is a matter of expressing oneself through the music. That mind set leads Cohen to fit quite a few works by Jewish composers into her ever-growing repertoire.
“That’s who we are,” she laughs. “I remember thinking, after I completed all my studies [in Paris], that I couldn’t remember ever playing a work by a Jewish composer.”
She set that partly to rights by asking various Israeli composers to write material for her first CD and, over the years, she has performed and recorded works by many of our leading writers, including Boaz Ben Moshe, Raffi Kadishson, Michael Wolpe and Josef Bardanshvili. “That started something I have been engaged in for 20 years now,” she says. “I love playing artistic classical music which draws on Jewish roots. That’s who we are.”
For tickets and more information, phone *5585 or go to isrotel.co.il.