“...a prolific musician, with a wide (one might dare say humungous) range of work, not to mention the numerous awards... Cohler’s playing is immaculate. His extended range clarinet gives particular depth to the first movement’s wide-ranging lines. The soft, pensive, and languid second movement is suitably fluid without sentimentality, the clarinet line appearing as a primus inter pares with the orchestra rather than overt soloist. The finale is performed as a light and airy dance, just the way Mozart probably would have loved it... the two overtures are also impressive... one of Mozart’s most difficult works [the “Haffner” Symphony], beginning as it does with a whole note and double dotted halves with quick upbeats. Most conductors never hold it to its full length, as it seems to delay getting on with the piece, and then rush the next measure; here, it seems that Cohler uses this time to give the interpretation the power it needs... It is, however, the finale that fires off the energy, and here Cohler takes it at the breakneck speed that Mozart wished (in a letter the composer calling it Prestissimo). In a world awash in music by Mozart, and each of the pieces chosen for this disc have multiple examples of various interpretations, this disc stands out as filled with energy and excellent interpretations... The power and liveliness of the Haffner Symphony and the two overtures round out a full hour of wonderful Mozartean pleasure. Kudos to Cohler and Anima Musicae for giving us this performance.
5 Stars: energetic and finely crafted performances; Jonathan Cohler and his group present excellent interpretations that should be the standard for Mozart”
—Bertil van Boer, Fanfare
“...a spectacular clarinetist...a fine conductor...fine interpretations of Mozart's Symphony No. 35 in D Major ‘Haffner,’ K. 385, as well as the overtures to Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute. Cohler's performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto stands out from others due to his flexible approach to rubato, liberal ornamentation of the solo part, and mastery of the basset clarinet. In the first movement, he demonstrates a mellow and refined tone on the basset clarinet enhanced by the clarity of his phrasing. His rapid articulation sparkles throughout the movement...New approaches to Mozart’s themes are welcome in this lengthy movement, especially with ornaments as creative as Cohler’s that can serve as good models for those seeking to incorporate more variety in their own interpretation of the concerto...Cohler’s technical abilities are on full display in an impressively fleet rendition of the third movement. He navigates the numerous rapid passages in the basset register with ease, making them sound as natural as if they were sung instead of played...[the] performances of the orchestral works are equally impressive. Cohler’s take on the ‘Haffner’ Symphony is pristine and fiery, while the opera overtures are marked by clarity and a variety of orchestral colors.”
—David Cook, The Clarinet
“Just over an hour of some of Mozart’s greatest music played and conducted by one of the world’s most distinguished clarinettists obviously makes for an attractive prospect... phenomenal dexterity of the soloist... the beauty of Cohler’s tone, the fluidity of his legato and delicacy and elegance of his ornamentation of the repeats... The deep, throaty timbre of his basset clarinet brings special pleasure... the playing is superlative and Cohler proves to be as gifted a conductor as he is a soloist. The playing of the symphony could hardly be more pointed or spirited; every movement is ideally delivered and the performance culminates in a thrilling, bubbling, prestissimo finale just as Mozart wanted. Its vivacity forms quite a contrast with the brooding menace of the Don Giovanni overture which immediately follows it... execution is flawless. The introduction to the Zauberflöte overture is imposing, bringing out its hieratic grandeur then the fast section scurries feverishly before the brass interjection calls proceedings to a halt – and off we go again... The notes by Cohler himself are voluminous and informative – so much so that the fat booklet... just fits with difficulty behind the plastic lugs... this compilation could hardly be bettered.”
“This is Mozart played with energy, momentum, and joyful spirit throughout...delightful flexibility in the rollout of the opening phrase of the “Haffner” Symphony...These kinds of delights may be found throughout. The Animae Muiscae Chamber Orchestra, under Cohler’s inspired direction, acquits itself in fine fashion...magnificent performance...gorgeous tone, breathtaking facility, a seamless legato, and elegance and mastery of phrasing, all on an exalted level. Indeed, Cohler’s performance of the solo part evokes the qualities that Mozart prized most in his own keyboard and violin/viola performances. The recorded sound is excellent; impactful and sharply defined, but without a trace of artificial enhancement or spotlighting...this disc is a must...one that serves Mozart at an extremely high level. Enthusiastically recommended.
5 Stars-Scintillating Mozart.”
—Ken Meltzer, Fanfare
“The performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto is both spirited and tasteful. Cohler plays with a rich, well-focused sound and impeccable technique...He makes consistently intelligent decisions regarding the employment of the extended range of the instrument. He also elaborates repeated passages, as is known to have been the common practice of Mozart’s time, and performs Eingänge, or lead-ins, at fermatas...Cohler [includes] voluminous and literary notes, including 39 footnotes, present history and background on the compositions and notes on performance practice...The recordings are clear and transparent...worthy to rest on the shelf next to the versions, also on basset clarinet, by [Julian] Bliss and David Shifrin—I can think of no higher praise...This is Cohler’s first Mozart recording; may it not be his last. In particular, can we have the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings? Strongly recommended.
5 stars - great attention to performance practice, and spirited music-making along with first-class clarinet playing.”
—Richard A. Kaplan, Fanfare
“As well as you think you know one of the best-known masterworks of the repertoire, there is always something new to be learned. That is the lesson Jonathan Cohler teaches us about Mozart’s immortal clarinet concerto...the edition is Cohler’s own, a thoroughly researched and re-examined edition that hasn’t been undertaken since Bärenreiter’s 1977 reconstructed version for basset clarinet...an exceptionally transparent and vivid recording that “hears” everything, but Cohler’s performance has about it a spirit of enlivening spontaneity that makes one feel as if the concerto was written just yesterday and is being heard here for the very first time. We take this ride with Cohler as if on a voyage of discovery. Everything is new and fresh...a joyful performance of Mozart’s “Haffner” Symphony...Cohler uncorks his orchestra for an intoxicating performance of bubbles and fizz...A truly special album, deserving of the highest praise and strongest recommendation.”
—Jerry Dubins, Fanfare
“Cohler...can float a line over slowly wafting strings with the most perfect legato...this performance vies with the greatest performance I ever heard, Peter Schmidl with Leonard Bernstein and the Vienna Philharmonic at the 1987 Proms in the Royal Albert Hall, London...It is to move to another world, seemingly, to experience the high-voltage opening of the “Haffner” Symphony. The recording is supremely involving...The central movement is here a properly sprightly Andante, discipline meeting freshness (a tremendously clean bassline) and expressivity. This is the very epitome of Mozartean G-Major grace achieved through proper sense of style...
Five stars: An important release on many levels...Mozart casts his spell as rarely before.”
—Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine
“Cohler’s has just become my favorite [performance of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto] on basset clarinet...Cohler’s a wonderful clarinetist. His slow movement is sublime...His control is remarkable everywhere...particularly joyous third movement...He articulates every key phrase flawlessly. He also ornaments some passages gracefully. This is first rate Mozart...Cohler seems as talented a conductor as he is a clarinetist. These detailed, unaffected, rhythmic, secure performances should appeal to every Mozartean…and to every clarinetist.
Five stars: magnificent concerto performance followed by accomplished performances of other Mozart masterpieces.”
—Michael Ullman, Fanfare
“Jonathan Cohler is an elegant, smart and virtuosic clarinetist...Here, he displays similar strengths as a conductor, both from the soloist’s perch in the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, and in a symphony and two overtures by the same composer. Anima Musicae is an excellent Hungarian chamber orchestra, and Cohler coaxes a vibrant texture out of them, especially evident in the rich polyphony of the Haffner Symphony...Cohler and his players tend to make the music sound like a large chamber music piece...This performance is as satisfying as any I know. The two opera overtures are also played with great dedication and high spirits...Cohler’s performance of the magnificent Clarinet Concerto (utilizing his own edition of the score) is completely delightful...As in the Haffner, Cohler displays an intuitive feel for tempi...Thus, the outer movements proceed with a propulsive flow, but no hint of rushing. Conversely, the adagio never drags, but still maintains a dreamy, vocal quality. Cohler’s tone is consistently radiant and beautifully shaped, with especially delectable soft playing in the adagio. His inclusion of un-scored embellishments is subtle and utterly idiomatic. Cohler has contributed very extensive notes, which are articulate and insightful, but not at all overly academic...
5 Stars: A great treat for Mozart lovers, with a good as it gets performance of the great Clarinet Concerto.”
—Peter Burwasser, Fanfare
“Every generation has its clarinet soloist—Stadler, Baermann, De Peyer, Stoltzman, etc. In our time, that person is Jonathan Cohler. His body of recorded clarinet music is nothing short of breathtaking; all gorgeous soloistic playing. Plus he is a fine conductor. If he was also a composer, we’d be comparing him to Leonard Bernstein.”
—Michael Drapkin, Author of Symphonic Repertoire for the Bass Clarinet
“Leonard Bernstein once described himself as one of those persons who are ‘possessed by music.’ With equal aptness the phrase fits Jonathan Cohler, who appears on this all-Mozart disc as clarinetist and conductor... I know of at least one other Mozart Clarinet Concerto on disc with the soloist doubling as conductor, from Michael Collins. But Cohler occupies a niche by himself, in that he also offers his own editions of everything on the program. Since he also teaches, it is apparent that a talented, high-energy omni-musician is at work. Credentials have to be translated into results, and happily on musical grounds Cohler delivers a superb reading of the concerto that immediately catches your attention... it was only after turning to recordings by Sabine Meyer and Michael Collins that the excellence of Cohler’s performance sank in. His tone is as beautiful as his famous colleagues’, and he has their liquid legato, scrupulous intonation, and supple articulation, as one expects at the top tier... for me the virtue of this recording is its sense of joy in music-making. Listening to Cohler’s illustrious rivals makes the concerto seem suave to the point where I begin to feel indifferent, but Cohler never gives the impression of Mozart under glass. His tempos, phrasing, and energy level are entirely refreshing... He’s also an accomplished writer, whose program notes are a must-read if you are interested in the concerto... as conductor and soloist Cohler communicates a sense of vibrancy that is very appealing...
When he takes on the sole role of conductor, we hear a reading of the “Haffner” Symphony that displays the same energy and freshness as the concerto. The Anima Musicae Chamber Orchestra of Hungary ... displays the professional polish, precise intonation, and pleasing tone that is expected of accomplished HIP groups now, and altogether this “Haffner” is thoroughly satisfying... rare as it is, we get a notable new contribution to the burgeoning discography of the Mozart Clarinet Concerto. In the modern era the two best recordings by Americans came from Stoltzman (RCA) and Harold Wright (DG). Cohler’s account shines just as brightly, and it has enough added verve and style for me to prefer it.”
—Huntley Dent, Fanfare