JAMES COHN was born in 1928 in Newark, New Jersey. He studied composition with Roy Harris, Wayne Barlow and Bernard Wagenaar, and majored in Composition at Juilliard, graduating in 1950. He was initiated into Sigma Alpha Iota (International Music Fraternity) as a National Arts Associate in 1998, by the Tulsa Oklahoma Alumnae Chapter.
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 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 many performances of his choral and chamber music, and world-wide use of his music commissioned for television and cinema. His major completed orchestral works are a Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Argentine pianist Mirian Conti, and his Violin Concerto commissioned by the American violinist, Eric Grossman. His most recent major chamber music works are “A Grecian Festival” for the Laurel Ensemble, based in California, the Trio No. 2 for Piano, Violin and Cello, commissioned by Sigma Alpha Iota and given its world premiere at Sigma Alpha Iota’s Convention, Three Dances for Clarinet and Guitar, commissioned by Raphael Sanders and David Galvez, Toccata & Fugue for Mr. Galvez, Guitarist, Duo for Clarinet & Violin, commissioned by Julianne Kirk and Adda Kridler and Mozart Fantasy and Fiesta Latina, both commissioned by the Quintet of the Americas.
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. Mr. Cohn’s latest commissions include Three Bon-Bons for the New York Treble Singers, Variations on a Chinese Folksong for Kenneth Chia & La Senorite Trio, The Lily Pond for the 3 Sisters Trio, Dance of Praise for the Quintet of the Americas & a new piano piece commissioned by the Internationally Renowned Argentine pianist, Mirian Conti.
SOME WORDS BY 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, with infectious good humor and high spirits. 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 ( James Cohn - Concertos & Tone Poems) are high on charm and craftsmanship.” - CLASSICS TODAY.
“Cohn’s music, on this new album (Naxos Release) is thoroughly, romantic in spirit, full of waltzes and light-hearted romps.” (Symphonies #2 & #7, Variations on the Wayfaring Stranger & the Waltz in D). “The Waltz in D, coming at the end, is like a “slice of key lime pie coming after a wonderful meal.” AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE – September/October, 2008