Robert Cohen

Concert Cellist

For 35 years one of the worlds leading cello soloist and now member of the Fine Arts Quartet, Robert Cohen is an award-winning recording artist, conductor, artistic director and pedagogue who has been broadcast on TV and radio throughout the world. His passionate views on the art of learning, performing and communicating music have been widely published.

Fine Arts Quartet

Every month, Bonnie North chats with cellist Robert Cohen for On That Note. Often the conversations take place on Skype because Robert is in some far-flung place where he is performing, either on his own or as part of a group. This month, Cohen came by the Lake Effect studio to talk face to face, along with violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, the Fine Arts Quartet's violist.

Hugues Argence

Often, our On That Note segment recordings take place with Bonnie North in the Lake Effect studio, and cellist Robert Cohen in some far-flung place where he is performing, either on his own or as part of the Fine Arts Quartet.

However for this edition, Cohen came by the studio with his cello to not only perform some Bach pieces, but talk about their unique qualities.

Photo courtesy of Robert Cohen

Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet cellist Robert Cohen has performed in many kinds of venues – from the small and intimate to grand concert stage. But his most recent musical adventure found him in need of a sextant and some nautical maps, along with some seasick pills…

Cohen spent nine days working on a musical cruise, which is quite common for classical musicians. But what was uncommon was the rough weather conditions under which they had to perform.

CPS

Music and love have long been interconnected. And even if a piece or a song is not directly about love, the person performing it has to approach it with an open heart - along with technique and skill.

It’s a familiar refrain for our On That Note contributor, cellist Robert Cohen. 

"From a musician's point of view, we're in that incredible, fortunate position of dealing with this every day of our lives," he says. "But we're equally able to forget how much that love is 90% of what we're doing."

Hugues Argence

Every month, Lake Effect brings you On That Note, a series of conversations with cellist Robert Cohen. The Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet brings Cohen state-side quite often, but he also maintains an apartment in London to accommodate his active solo career.

Recently, he's been working with students in England, introducing them to music as a profession and giving them live performances with his cello. After a recent school visit, Cohen says he was unsure about how the students had received his presentation. 

Christine Lalla

For a contemporary composer, seeing and hearing your work live is a rewarding experience that offers a unique privilege to work with the musicians performing a piece.

Our “On That Note” contributor, Robert Cohen, was just on the other side of that equation.  Cohen is a cellist and recently had the opportunity to play work by a living composer – work that was composed for Cohen himself. 

Courtesy of Robert Cohen

Beethoven, Brahms, Bach. These composers are synonymous with great classical music that has been performed from the 1600s to modern times.

Cellist for the Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet, Robert Cohen, discusses the intricate dance that occurs between musician and composer - starting with the requirement that a musician respect the composer's work.

CPS

The New Year is a time when many people resolve to do something different, or better, or not at all in the coming months. It could be an effort to lose weight or stop smoking or learn a new language, or even just to be kinder.

Our On That Note contributor Robert Cohen is no different – although many of his resolutions are related to his work as a professional cellist. 

Courtesy of Robert Cohen

Professional musicians practice a lot, and any one of them will tell you that you never stop learning or striving to be better.  However it can be difficult to find the time or opportunity for professional development once you are a working musician.  This month, cellist Robert Cohen discusses one key offering – the concept of master classes.

Courtesy of Robert Cohen

Musicians have an array of influences in their lives that impact who they are as a person and as a musician. For cellist Robert Cohen, his influences range from his father to the music he performs.

"I have more that I can look at that music with," says Cohen. "I have a broader sense of what can happen inside me because of these influences."

However for Cohen, the messages in the music should be the largest influence on a musician. For him, it is essential to bring out the feelings and very essence of the composer in the pieces performed.

Cremona, Italy is the home of Antonio Stradivari, possibly the greatest maker of musical instruments in history. With more than two hundred violin makers living in the small picturesque town, it would make sense that cellist Robert Cohen would find himself there.

"Every restaurant, every hotel, every shop window has violins in it, has instruments of all sorts. It's one of the few places in the world you can walk around with a cello and nobody asks you, 'what is that?'" Cohen says.

Christine Lalla

Cellist Robert Cohen has been on tour over the summer with the Milwaukee-based Fine Arts Quartet. While many people may think the life of a touring musician must be incredibly entertaining and adventurous...being constantly on the move can also have its downsides.

"I suppose not too many people would realize that here you are coming off the platform and it's all very exciting, and the next thing you're washing a shirt in the sink hoping it's going to be okay the next morning," says Cohen.

CPS

As summer winds down, practice may be far removed from the minds of music students. But practice does make perfect, and it is the art of repetition and fine-tuning a sound that adds up to a great musician.

Cellist Robert Cohen says, "Feeling of having done more than you've expected to do...you somehow are able to be more expressive than the effort you're putting in to it. It just seems to pour out of you."

Christine Lalla

The summer festival season is a special time for musicians of all kinds, especially classical musicians. Summer festivals allow them to reach an audience that often does not come to formal concert halls to listen to classical music.

Cellist and Lake Effect contributor Robert Cohen often meets individuals from all walks of life that are genuinely interested in his music during festival trips.

Christine Lalla

Professional musician Robert Cohen spends much of his time performing in various concert venues.

For this month's On That Note segment, Lake Effect wondered what it’s like for a professional musician to go to a concert - not to perform - but to listen to others make music.

"He speaks music. Music is a language, and he speaks it so eloquently and so poetically and beautifully. It's constantly telling me something," says Cohen of one of his idols, Pablo Casals.

Pages