Various commissions since the time of the interview...
Piano Concerto, commissioned by the Argentine pianist Mirian Conti;
Violin Concerto, commissioned and performed by the American violinist Eric Grossman;
Trumpet Concerto, commissioned by trumpeter Jeffrey Silberschlag;
Clarinet Concerto #1; Evocations (Clarinet Concerto #2); these and other works for clarinet commissioned and performed by John Manasse; [It was the first Clarinet Concerto which precipitated Jim's visit to Ostend Belgium where he wrote Caprice for the Claribel Clarinet Choir in Ostend in 1997, which was the foundation for a great friendship between Maestro Guido Six, which resulted in the commission in February of 2010 for Texas Suite for future performance at the TMEA in San Antonio];
A Grecian Festival for the Laurel Ensemble, based in California [see photo below];
Trio No. 2 for Piano, Violin and Cello, commissioned by Sigma Alpha Iota and given its world premiere at Sigma Alpha Iota’s Convention [see photo below in next box];
Three Dances for Clarinet and Guitar, commissioned by Raphael Sanders and David Galvez;
Mozart Fantasy, Fiesta Latina and Dance of Praise, commissioned by the Quintet of the Americas;
The Empty Platter (from a poem by Ogden Nash) and Three Bon-Bons for the New York Treble Singers;
on Two Asian Folk Songs for Flute/Oboe and
Jeffrey Liang & the Chinese Youth Orchestra;
Sonata for Violin & Piano,
commissioned by Kees Kooper, the
renowned Dutch Violinist.
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, [photo below] 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).
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
This interview was recorded in Chicago on October 19, 1987.
Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1991, 1993 and 1998,
and on WNUR in 2006 and 2008. This transcription was made and posted
on this website in 2010.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.