COMPOSER JAMES COHN
JAMES COHN was born in 1928 in Newark, New Jersey, and took violin and piano lessons there. Later he studied composition with Roy Harris, Wayne Barlow and Bernard Wagenaar, and majored in Composition at Juilliard, graduating in 1950. He is married, and has lived and worked for many years in New York City. He was initiated as a National Arts Associate of Sigma Alpha Iota (International Music Fraternity) (SAI) in the Tulsa Oklahoma chapter in 1998.
He has written solo, chamber, choral and orchestral works, and his catalog includes 3 string quartets, 5 piano sonatas and 8 symphonies. Some have won awards, including a Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Prize for his Symphony No. 2 (premiered at Brussels) and an A.I.D.E.M. prize for his Symphony No. 4 (premiered in Florence at the Maggio Musicale). Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony introduced the composer's Symphony No. 3 and Variations on "The Wayfaring Stranger", and his opera The Fall of the City received its premiere in Athens, Ohio after winning the Ohio University Opera Award. He has had many performances of his choral and chamber music, and world-wide use of his music commissioned for television and cinema. His most recent completed orchestral work is a Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Argentine pianist Mirian Conti, and his most recent chamber music work is the Trio No. 2 for Piano, Violin and Cello, commissioned by Sigma Alpha Iota and scheduled for premiere at Sigma Alpha Iota's annual Convention in the summer of 2006 at Orlando, Florida, 3 Dances for Clarinet and Guitar, commissioned by Raphael Sanders and David Galvez and Duo for Clarinet & Violin, commissioned by Julianne Kirk and Adda Kridler.
Commissions for other works have come from The McKim Fund in the Library of Congress (for the Concerto da camera for Violin, Piano and Wind Quintet), Pennsylvania's "Music At Gretna" festival (for the Mount Gretna Suite, for chamber orchestra), Jon Manasse (for the Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Strings), Christopher Jepperson (for 3 Evocations [Clarinet Concerto No. 2]), Jeffrey Silberschlag (for the Concerto for Trumpet and Strings) and Claribel (the Belgian 30-piece clarinet ensemble) (for the 3-movement suite Caprice).
You can read online reviews of some of his XLNT CD recordings at the following addresses:
Mt. Gretna Suite and Other Delights -
Sonatas and Chamber Music -
Concerto for Clarinet and Strings -
SOME WORDS FROM THE PRESS
"The highlight of the program was the first performance of three (choral) works by James Cohn, to texts by Ogden Nash. They proved to be indescribably funny, the poet's shrewdly nonsensical verses being set in a mock-heroic manner worthy of Sir Arthur Sullivan. The works, moreover, were effective in performance. Mr. Cohn has technical skill, an inventive musical imagination, a flair for setting text to music and a sense of humor. All these qualities are as rare as they are admirable, and it is hoped that Mr. Cohn will soon be heard from again." - THE NEW YORK TIMES
"Mr. Cohn's opus (Variations on "The Wayfaring Stranger", premiered by Paul Paray and the Detroit Symphony) proved to be spectacularly appealing. Moreover it is melodic... The Variations run the gamut of human emotions with delightful solo lines... It was a superb performance of a superb work." - THE WINDSOR (ONT.) STAR
"Cohn's Symphony (No. 3) is an eminently attractive one which makes its claim on the attention with the opening phrases and sustains the interest throughout the performance. There is an economy of means in the orchestration of the piece, but no yielding of inventiveness or imaginative composition. Indeed, the work throughout is marked strongly by individuality, and comes as a refreshing experience in modern music." - DETROIT FREE PRESS
"I am an unabashed fan of the music of James Cohn... Thus I was excited by the prospect of a new clarinet concerto (No. 1)... and I was not disappointed. The piece is easily in a class with (Gerald) Finzi's concerto; it is melodic and charming, without sounding old-fashioned or stuffy... Cohn seems not to mind writing music that one can enjoy, and I applaud him for it." - AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
"Imagine: here is contemporary music that is easy to listen to and enjoyable... Cohn reminds me of (Jean) Francaix in his expert writing for wind instruments and for his infectious good humor and high spirits, and of Hindemith for his angular melodies. These comparisons are not meant to suggest that Cohn is not original, for he is... I would rank the Wind Quintet high on the long list of such works in the literature." - AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE
"James Cohn's music is light and gay yet thoroughly classical; the wind music has something of the spirit of Parisian wind pieces, but with a distinctly American flavor. Chief characteristics are brevity, wit and clarity; Cohn's melodies are charming." - FANFARE
"Witty and well-crafted music. Cohn's orchestral music is well structured, warmly tonal and rich in grace and wit" - GRAMOPHONE
"The six works on this disk are high on charm and craftsmanship." - CLASSICS TODAY