Concertgoers of this decade are in for a treat, as cellist Robert Cohen's recital at the Terrace Theater yesterday afternoon confirmed. Opening the season for the Young Concert Artists Series and also making his Washington debut, Cohen seems representative of new currents developing in the artistic world. The age of austere authenticity is waning; personality is coming back.
However, this personality, as Cohen made clear, is of a different order. The virtuosity of earlier days is there -- Cohen demonstrated plenty -- but it is tempered with an engaging awareness. In the midst of a cello "warhorse" by David Popper, Cohen went flying up the fingerboard with a demonic run that suddenly broke off into a rest. Cohen gave the audience a quick grin, as if to say, 'Isn't this deliciously ridiculous?' and then dramatically plucked a low open string.
Cohen is, unmistakably, an individual and an exceptionally gifted one. In addition to the expected breadth of technique and tone, he possesses a quixotic strain that is tempered with a delicate sensibility. This combination gives his playing a special color and character, particularly evident in his inspired interpretation of Debussy's first cello sonata and a Bartok Rhapsody.
Although the opening Beethoven sonata was more a matter of promise than of fulfillment, Cohen showed certain lyrical insights that offer a basis for developing an unusual interpretation. After all, he is only 21.
Throughout the program pianist John Van Buskirk provided splendid support for Cohen's three-dimensional performance.