Bassist Zachary Cohen on collaborating with Patricia Kopatchinskaja


This week’s concerts with Patricia Kopatchinskaja and her family also prominently feature Zachary Cohen, Guest Principal Bass for the 2014-15 Season. We asked Zach to tell us more about this collaboration.

The first time I met Patricia was in January 2013 when we played together in Salzburg with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra and Andrés Orozco-Estrada. Patricia gave a rendition of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 that brought the entire hall onto its feet in a frenzy of applause. If you’ve ever been to a concert in Austria, you know how rare it is to get a standing ovation there! Then this past summer, Patricia debuted at the Mostly Mozart Festival, where I was principal bass. She played Frank Martin’s Polypteque, a mesmerizing work that proved one of the festival’s highlights. The audience was deeply moved — in awe of what they had just witnessed.

Now Patricia and I are reunited through the SPCO—this time with her parents Viktor and Emilie. All the Kopatchinskaja family are wonderfully sincere and generous, both inside music and out. Working closely with Viktor Kopatchinsky, the cimbalom virtuoso, and Emilie, a brilliant violin improviser and musician, has given me a window into the unique musical language and style of folk music from Moldova and the surrounding regions. If you haven’t already heard the family’s recording Rapsodia you must download it immediately from iTunes! There’s nothing like it.

I barely can speak a complete sentence in German (spielen nochmal?!), and Viktor and Emilie don’t speak English, but we managed to communicate well through gestures and sounds. It seems that everyone at the SPCO has found their own individual ways to communicate with Viktor and Emilie, and have come to share something special together. There’s a palpable feeling of excitement and fascination throughout the organization.

Last weekend, after rehearsing Viktor’s remarkable transcription of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody with Emilie, Viktor spontaneously started playing for me Bach’s first cello suite on cimbalom. Emilie and I just stood there listening. It was an incredibly beautiful moment and a gift that I will always remember.

Photo: Chris Bohnhoff Photography