Compact Discoveries®
a series of one-hour radio programs produced, written, hosted, and edited
by Fred Flaxman

©2012 by Fred Flaxman

Program 204
"The Music of James Cohn"

MUSIC: Cohn: opening of “Parade” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 13] [under the following]

Hello and welcome to another hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. I’m, going to devote the next 60 minutes entirely to the delightful, tuneful, music of the American composer, James Cohn.

MUSIC:
fades out

In program number 168, which I called “Modern Melodies,” I included two compositions by James Cohn: his Piano Concerto and his Variations on “Muskrat Ramble.” I’m not going to repeat those pieces here, so if you like the music you hear in this hour as much as I do, and you missed program number 168, just go to compactdiscoveries.com and stream that episode on demand.

James Cohn was born in 1928 in Newark, New Jersey. He majored in composition at the Julliard School in New York City. He has written solo, chamber, choral, and orchestral music, including string quartets, piano sonatas, and eight symphonies. Several of his works have won awards, including a Queen Elisabeth of Belgium Prize for his Symphony No. 4, and an Ohio University Opera Award for his opera, The Fall of the City. One of his compositions has been selected for performance at the Nobel Prize Awards Ceremony in Stockholm.

Cohn has received more commissions than I have time to tell you about, including works for television and movies. There have been performances of his music all over the world, and several recordings. I have culled through six of them on compact discs to pick the selections you are about to hear.

Let’s start with A Grecian Festival, written in 2007 for the Laurel Ensemble, a quintet of women in California who requested a new piece to honor their namesake, the nympth “Daphne” from Greek mythology.

All of the melodies in this piece (except for one called “The Frogs”) are authentic Greek tunes. The oldest dates back to ancient Greece and was discovered inscribed on a column near Tralles. “The Frogs” is Cohn’s tribute to both Aristophanes and Beethoven. It includes snatches of the baritone solo from the opening of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” from his Ninth Symphony.

There are five movements, starting with “Message Found on a Grecian Column.” I’ll tell you the other four movement titles as we come to them. The performance is by the Laurel Ensemble on an MSR Classics compact disc.

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Message Found on a Grecian Column” from A Grecian Festival performed by the Laurel Ensemble. [MSR Classics MS 1285, Track 1]
[3:06]

Second Movement: “Concerning Love.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Concerning Love” from A Grecian Festival performed by the Laurel Ensemble. [MSR Classics MS 1285, Track 2]
[3:16]

Third Movement: “Concerning Wine.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Concerning Wine” from A Grecian Festival performed by the Laurel Ensemble. [MSR Classics MS 1285, Track 3]
[2:10]

Fourth Movement: “Beethoven Visits the Swamp.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Beethoven Visits the Swamp” from A Grecian Festival performed by the Laurel Ensemble. [MSR Classics MS 1285, Track 4]
[3:03]

Fifth and final Movement: “Dapthne’s Flight and Metamorphosis.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Daphne’s Flight and Metamorphosis” from A Grecian Festival performed by the Laurel Ensemble. [MSR Classics MS 1285, Track 5]
[3:40]

James Cohn’s A Grecian Festival, performed by the Laurel Festival from an MSR Classics compact disc.

You are listening to an hour of the music of James Cohn on Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman.

James Cohn’s Miniatures for Orchestra were originally written for piano in 1954. They were orchestrated in 1975. There are nine of them, starting with “Sunrise.” I’ll give you the other movement titles as we go along. In this MSR Classics recording the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra is under the baton of Kirk Trevor.

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Sunrise” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 5]
[1:42]

“Boogie.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Boogie” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 6]
[2:09]

“Freilach.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Freilach” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 7]
[0:47]

“Drag.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Drag” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 8]
[2:25]

“Legend.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Legend” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 9]
[1:29]

“Lullaby.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Lullaby” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 10]
[1:57]

“Parade.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Parade” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 11]
[1:35]

“Mazurka.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Mazurka” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 12]
[2:03]

“Sunset.”

MUSIC:
Cohn: “Sunset” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor. [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 13]
[1:59]

Nine Miniatures for Orchestra by James Cohn. Kirk Trevor led the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra on this MSR Classics compact disc.

You are listening to “The Music of James Cohn” on this hour of Compact Discoveries. I’m your guide, Fred Flaxman. Compact Discoveries is broadcast weekly on select public radio stations throughout the U.S. and abroad, on line on demand at compactdiscoveries.com, and on the Sky.FM Compact Discoveries Radio channel seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

[optional one-minute break not included in the total timing]

James Cohn’s Evocations: Concerto No. 2 for Clarinet and Strings, Opus 75, was composed in 1996 for the principal clarinetist of one of the two symphony orchestras in Bogota, Colombia. So Cohn wanted to include musical elements that would be particularly pleasing to Latin American audiences.

The final movement, called “Carnival,” was written after Cohn says he had absorbed the rhythms of many different Colombian cumbias, Brazilian sambas, and café songs that he first heard as a teenager growing up around multi-cultural New York City.

Let’s listen to this movement of Evocations now as performed on an XLNT Music compact disc by clarinetist Jon Manasse with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vakhtang Jordania.

MUSIC:
James Cohn: “Carnival” movement from Evocations: Concerto No. 2 for Clarinet and Strings, Op. 75, performed by Jon Manasse with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra under Vakhtang Jordania. [XLNT Music CD-18010, Track 13]
[4:08]

The final movement -- “Carnival” -- from James Cohn’s Evocations: Concerto No. 2 for Clarient and Strings, Op. 75. Jon Manasse was the soloist with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra under Vakhtang Jordania.

I’m devoting this hour of Compact Discoveries to the music of the American composer, James Cohn. I have time for two more selections: one featuring three high-toned instruments of the orchestra, the other featuring one of the lowest sounds. Both use a theme-and-variations format.

Cohn writes that this first selection, the Goldfinch Variations, was inspired by one of the smaller visitors to his back-yard bird-feeder. The 1984 work is scored for any combination of three high-ranging instruments: flutes, recorders, oboes, clarinets, violins, etc. Although the piece is as small as the birds that inspired it -- only lasting a little over five minutes -- it carefully observes all the criteria expected of a set of classical variations, including one variation in a minor key, some fugal counterpoint, and a grand finale. In this XLNT Music compact disc, Marina Piccinini is the flutist; Matthew Dine, the oboist; and Jon Manasse is on Clarinet.

MUSIC:
James Cohn: The Goldfinch Variations, Op. 61, performed by Marina Piccinini, flutist; Matthew Dine, oboist; and Jon Manasse clarinetist [XLNT CD-18006, Track 17]
[5:13]

James Cohn’s Goldfinch Variations. Marina Piccinini was the flutist; Matthew Dine, the oboist; and Jon Manasse was on Clarinet.

Finally, in this hour devoted to the music of James Cohn, we go from the high-pitched instruments of the Goldfinch Variations to one of the lowest: the double bass. This is the “Theme and Variations” movement from Cohn’s Sonata Romantica, Opus 18, written in 1952. Nami Akamatsu is the double bass player; Seann Alderking, the pianist, on this XLNT Music CD.

MUSIC:
James Cohn: “Theme and Variations” from Sonata Romantica, Op. 18 performed by Nami Akamatsu, double bass; Seann Alderking, pianio [XLNT CD-18006, Track 6]
[8:22]

The “Theme and Variations” movement from James Cohn’s Sonata Romantica, Opus 18, written in 1952. Nami Akamatsu was the double bass player; Seann Alderking, the pianist.

And that concludes this tribute to the music of James Cohn on Compact Discoveries. If you missed any of this program or would like to hear it again, go to compactdiscoveries.com on the internet, where you’ll find links to stream Compact Discoveries programs on demand without charge. There you’ll also find information on every recording used in every program. This is program number 204.

In program number 168, which I called “Modern Melodies,” I included two other wonderful pieces by James Cohn: his Piano Concerto and his Variations on “Muskrat Ramble.” You can also stream that program on demand at compactdiscoveries.com. This is Fred Flaxman thanking you for listening, and inviting you to join me again for more Compact Discoveries.

MUSIC:
Cohn: opening of “Parade” from Miniatures for Orchestra performed by the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kirk Trevor [MSR Classics MS 1435, Track 13]

MUSIC:
ends at 57:30

ANNOUNCER
(Steve Jencks): Compact Discoveries is made possible in part by Story Book Publishers and their latest offering, a tongue-in-cheek memoir by Compact Discoveries host Fred Flaxman called “Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster.” Information and ordering at sixtyslices.com. And by the financial support of Isabel and Marvin Leibowitz, and an anonymous donor from Palm Beach, Florida. And by contributions to public radio station by listeners like you. Thank you. [0:30]

Total Program Timing: 58:00