James Cohn (1928-2021) in Memoriam
James Cohn was born in 1928 in Newark, New Jersey and died on June 12th, 2021. He attended the Juilliard School of Music in New York City graduating with two degrees in Composition. His principal instructor was Bernard Wagenaar. Of Note – Mr. Cohn’s entrance exam for Juilliard was to write a Fugue. He wrote a Double Fugue and was immediately given a scholarship for all years of study. He has written solo, chamber, choral and orchestral works, and his catalog includes four string quartets, six piano sonatas and nine symphonies. Some have won awards, including a Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Prize for his Symphony No. 2 (premiered in Brussels) and an A.I.D.E.M. prize for his Symphony No. 4 (premiered in Florence, Italy). 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 won an Ohio University Opera Award. He has had performances at Lincoln Center in New York, at the Library of Congress and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and world-wide use of his music commissioned for television and cinema.
Mr. Cohn’s latest completed works were his Trio for the Palisades Virtuosi Ensemble for Flute, Clarinet and Piano, a Concertino for Oboe, Bassoon and String Orchestra for Professor Sasha Enegren, “A Musical Joke” for Solo Bassoon for Bassoonist, Scott Pool, Variations on a Gershwin Song for Clarinet and Piano for Jon Manasse and Jon Nakamatsu, Sonata for Cello and Piano for Marcel Krasner, Cello and Dasha Bukhartseva, Piano, Variations on “Turkey in the Straw” for piano prodigy, Maxim Lando and Concerto for English Horn and String Orchestra for Maestro Pedro Diaz, Principal English Hornist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in New York.
At the last part of his life, Mr. Cohn seemed to have been in “Flute” Mode. Of the last three commissions, all involved the Flute. The first was for A Trio for Palisades Virtuosi, the second for Jerene Weitman, who commissioned a work for her Ensemble – Flutissimo – It is entitled “Tick-Tock Fantasy for 3 Flutes and Piano.” Mr. Cohn’s last commission involving Flute was from Carla Auld, who commissioned a Concertino for Flute & String Orchestra. This work for Flute & Strings was premiered at the Flute Society of Greater Philadelphia at West Chester, PA, on March 5th, 2022. Some of his last commissions included a Flute Quartet for Sally Shorrock, Principal Flutist for the Cante Libra Ensemble, Fiesta Latina for the Quintet of the Americas and Fanfare and March for the St. Thomas Orchestra in Mamaroneck, NY.
Many previous commissions were from Caroline Hartig, former President of the International Clarinet Association, for Klezmer Fantasy for Clarinet and Piano; Argentinean pianist Mirian Conti, for Piano Concerto #1; Quintet of the Americas for numerous works for woodwind quintet; Kathy Judd from the Artists Village at Mt. Gretna, PA, for the Mount Gretna Suite; Violinist Eric Grossman for his 3rd Sonata for Violin and Piano; The McKim Fund from the Library of Congress for Concerto Da Camera to honor the 400th anniversary of the friendship between the United States and the Netherlands; the SAI Sonatina for the Tulsa Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, to honor the 75th anniversary of their receiving their Charter; and “Caprice” for the 30-piece clarinet ensemble, Claribel, conducted by Maestro Guido Six of Oostende, Belgium.
The New York Premiere of Mr. Cohn’s Concertino for Flute and Strings will be at the New York Flute Club on April 23rd, 2022.
Mr. Cohn’s 3 Pieces for Clarinet Alone will be performed at Scandanavia House in New York on April 24th, 2022
His 9th Symphony will be premiered in Great Neck, N.Y. in fall of 2022.
Mr. Cohn was honored to have been profiled in the April 2019 issue of the B’nai B’rith International Magazine.
Mr. Cohn’s music is available on The Naxos American Classics label, MSR Music Classics and the XLNT Music label.
All Reviews are available.