COHN A Grecian Festival10. Oboe Sonata.1,6 Violin Sonata.2,7 Viola Sonata4,8. Baroque Suite5. Piano Trio No. 22,5,10. Arkansas Reel12 • 1Winnie Lai (ob); Read more class="SUPER12">2Eric Grossman (vn); 3Hideaki Aomori (cl); 4Amadi Azikiwe (va); 5Gerald Kagan (vc); 6Kenneth Chia (fl); 7Emil Kagawa, 8Vladimir Valjarevic, 9Lori Piilz, 10Susan Kagan (pn); 11Laurel Ens; 12Qnt 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?
A Grecian Festival, for chamber ensembleby James Cohn Orchestra/Ensemble:
Written: 2007 Date of Recording: 11/19/2010 Venue: Bandwagon, Media, San Francisco, Califor Length: 15 Minutes 15 Secs.
Sonata for oboe & pianoby James Cohn Performer:
Winnie Lai (Oboe),
Emi Kagawa (Piano)
Written: 1988 Date of Recording: 08/18/2010 Venue: Patrych Sound Studios, New York Length: 11 Minutes 26 Secs.
Sonata for violin & pianoby James Cohn Performer:
Vladimir Valjarevic (Piano),
Eric Grossman (Violin)
Written: 2005 Length: 8 Minutes 15 Secs.
Pieces (3), for clarinet aloneby 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 & pianoby James Cohn Performer:
Amadi Azikiwe (Viola),
Lori Piitz (Piano)
Written: 1987 Length: 9 Minutes 31 Secs.
Baroque Suite, for fluteby 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. 2by 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 quintetby 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.
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Music for Heart & SoulMarch 15, 2012By 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