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James Cohn: A Grecian Festival

Cohn / Laurel Ensemble
Release Date: 02/14/2012 
Label:  Msr   Catalog #: 1285   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  James Cohn
Performer:  Emi KagawaWinnie LaiVladimir ValjarevicEric Grossman,   ... 
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Laurel EnsembleQuintet of the Americas
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 17 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

COHN A Grecian Festival 10. Oboe Sonata. 1,6 Violin Sonata. 2,7 Viola Sonata 4,8. Baroque Suite 5. Piano Trio No. 2 2,5,10. Arkansas Reel 12 1 Winnie Lai (ob); Read more class="SUPER12">2 Eric Grossman (vn); 3 Hideaki Aomori (cl); 4 Amadi Azikiwe (va); 5 Gerald Kagan (vc); 6 Kenneth Chia (fl); 7 Emil Kagawa, 8 Vladimir Valjarevic, 9 Lori Piilz, 10 Susan Kagan (pn); 11 Laurel Ens; 12 Qnt of the Americas MSR MS1285 (77:35)

I first encountered the music of James Cohn a number of years ago in the course of my record business, coming across several LPs and CDs on the XLNT label. Hearing the chamber works on those issues, I always wondered why his music isn’t better known. It is most ingratiating in every way, incorporating good melodies, a dance-like character, and evidencing idiomatic use of every instrument. Perhaps its unabashed tonality has been a drawback in certain quarters, but I know enough performers on various instruments who remain fond of tonal music, and they would like, if not love, this music.

The present disc offers a generous sampling of Cohn’s art in the chamber-music idiom to those who may not have yet encountered it. As far as I can tell, all of this music is recorded for the first time, although Cohn’s First Piano Trio was included on one of the XLNT discs. The dance-like quality of his music is obvious from the get-go; the first work on the CD, A Grecian Festival, is shot through with danceable rhythms, although the third movement’s tango seems rather far removed from Greece. (The tango shows up again in the opening movement of his Second Piano Trio.) The Oboe Sonata would seem to allow Cohn to make a claim of being America’s Poulenc. The unabashed joy of the melodies in this work is every bit the equal of that found in the Frenchman’s melodic genius. The work, especially in its jazzy finale, is a delight from beginning to end.

Actually, the same may be said of every work on the CD. The Viola Sonata, with its bouncy opening movement, calmly meditative second, and rhythmically dynamic finale, should be on the radar screen of every violist. They must by now be looking for something besides the ubiquitous Rebecca Clarke sonata, and this work is at least as good as that repertory staple. The pieces for solo clarinet are also rewarding to hear, and I would think to play as well.

The most “different” piece on the CD is not more modern than the others, but more retro. In his Baroque Suite for solo flute, Cohn looks back to the dance forms and melodic contours of that era, while updating the tonality a bit. It definitely owes more to the 18th century than to the 21st, however.

Performances on this disc are uniformly excellent—even definitive. I am happy to encounter pianist Lori Piitz in a new recording: She is a superb artist, whom I was happy to record on my Enharmonic label a number of years ago. The recorded sound of every work is likewise both warm and spacious. There is simply nothing not to like about the recording of this well-crafted and inspired music. If you’re into tonality, Cohn is definitely worth exploring, and this CD is as good a place to start as anywhere. I hope to be able to hear some of Cohn’s works for larger forces someday. He is the composer of eight symphonies, for example. How about it, cpo? Care to take up the cause of a worthy American composer?

FANFARE: David DeBoor Canfield
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Works on This Recording

A Grecian Festival, for chamber ensemble by James Cohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Laurel Ensemble
Written: 2007 
Date of Recording: 11/19/2010 
Venue:  Bandwagon, Media, San Francisco, Califor 
Length: 15 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Sonata for oboe & piano by James Cohn
Performer:  Emi Kagawa (Piano), Winnie Lai (Oboe)
Written: 1988 
Date of Recording: 08/18/2010 
Venue:  Patrych Sound Studios, New York 
Length: 11 Minutes 26 Secs. 
Sonata for violin & piano by James Cohn
Performer:  Vladimir Valjarevic (Piano), Eric Grossman (Violin)
Written: 2005 
Length: 8 Minutes 15 Secs. 
Pieces (3), for clarinet alone by James Cohn
Performer:  Hideaki Aomori (Clarinet)
Written: 1999 
Date of Recording: 07/26/2011 
Venue:  Patrych Sound Studios, New York 
Length: 7 Minutes 27 Secs. 
Sonata for viola & piano by James Cohn
Performer:  Amadi Azikiwe (Viola), Lori Piitz (Piano)
Written: 1987 
Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs. 
Baroque Suite, for flute by James Cohn
Performer:  Kenneth Chia (Flute)
Written: 1966 
Date of Recording: 11/26/2010 
Venue:  Patrych Sound Studios, New York 
Length: 9 Minutes 12 Secs. 
Piano Trio No. 2 by James Cohn
Performer:  Eric Grossman (Violin), Susan Kagan (Piano), Gerald Kagan (Cello)
Written: 2003 
Date of Recording: 06/27/2011 
Venue:  Patrych Sound Studios, New York 
Length: 12 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Arkansas Reel, for quintet by James Cohn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Quintet of the Americas
Written: 1994 
Date of Recording: 10/30/2010 
Venue:  Patrych Sound Studios, New York 
Length: 2 Minutes 49 Secs. 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Music for Heart & Soul March 15, 2012 By James Cohn (Douglaston, NY) See All My Reviews "I love this CD. Everything that Mr. Cohn writes seems to touch the heart and please the soul. Thank you for this beautiful music." Report Abuse
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