Composer Gerald Cohen has been praised for his “linguistic fluidity and melodic gift,” creating music that “reveals a very personal modernism that…offers great emotional rewards.” (Gramophone Magazine). His deeply affecting compositions have been recognized with numerous awards and critical accolades. The music on his recent CD, Sea of Reeds (Navona), “is filled with vibrant melody, rhythmic clarity, drive and compositional construction…a sheer delight to hear.” (Gapplegate Music Review)
His opera, Steal a Pencil for Me, based on a true concentration camp love story, had its world premiere production by Opera Colorado in January 2018; excerpts were featured at Fort Worth Opera’s Frontiers Festival in 2016. Lucid Culture’s review of the opera noted the effectiveness of Cohen’s “…mesmerizingly hypnotic, intricately contrapuntal” music, with moments of “…Bernard Herrmann-esque, shivery terror…”. Cohen’s operas Sarah and Hagar, based on the story from the book of Genesis, and Seed, a one-act opera about love and choices for a post-apocalyptic couple, have been performed in concert form. Cohen is a noted synagogue cantor and baritone; his experience as a singer informs his dramatic, lyrical compositions. Cohen’s best-known work, his “shimmering setting” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) of Psalm 23, has received thousands of performances from synagogues and churches to Carnegie Hall and the Vatican. Recent instrumental compositions include Voyagers, a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Voyager spacecraft, which had its premiere at New York’s Hayden Planetarium; and Playing for our lives, a tribute to the music and musicians of the WWII Terezin concentration camp near Prague.
Recognition of Cohen’s body of work includes the Copland House Borromeo String Quartet Award and Hoff-Barthelson/Copland House commission, Westchester Prize for New Work, American Composers Forum Faith Partners residency, Zamir Choral Foundation’s Hallel V’Zimrah award, and Cantors Assembly’s Max Wohlberg Award for distinguished achievement in the field of Jewish composition. Cohen received the Yale University’s Sudler Prize for outstanding achievement in the creative arts, and has been awarded commissioning grants from Meet the Composer, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, and Westchester Arts Council.
Throughout his career, he has been selected for residencies including those at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and American Lyric Theater. Cohen’s music has been commissioned by chamber ensembles including the Cassatt String Quartet, Verdehr Trio, Franciscan String Quartet, Chesapeake Chamber Music, Grneta Ensemble, Wave Hill Trio, Bronx Arts Ensemble, and Brooklyn Philharmonic Brass Quintet; by choruses including the New York Virtuoso Singers, Canticum Novum Singers, Syracuse Children’s Chorus, St. Bartholomew’s Church in New York City, Zamir Chorale of Boston, and Usdan Center Chorus; and by the Cantors Assembly of America and Westchester Youth Symphony. Cohen’s music has been performed by the Borromeo String Quartet, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Westchester Philharmonic, Riverside Symphony, Plymouth Music Series Orchestra, New York Concert Singers, Princeton Pro Musica, and many other ensembles and soloists.
Cohen’s compositions are available by contacting him by email; he also has works published by Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer/AMP and Transcontinental Music Publications. Gerald Cohen received a BA in music from Yale University and a DMA in composition from Columbia University. He is cantor at Shaarei Tikvah, Scarsdale, NY, and is on the faculties of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College.
Steal a Pencil for Me: “An Ordinary Breakfast” (Act II, Scene 2)
Robert Balonek (Jaap), Ilana Davidson (Ina).
Ari Pelto, conductor; Beth Greenberg, stage director; Lynn Baker, asst. musical director; Cori Ellison, artistic advisor.
Semi-staged concert performance at Shaarei Tikvah Congregation, Scarsdale, NY April 28, 2013
Gerald Cohen: Playing for our Lives, 1st Mvt.
Cassatt String Quartet
Sea of Reeds for two clarinets and piano
Vasko Dukovski and Ismail Lumanovski, clarinets; Alexandra Joan, piano
Le Poisson Rouge, NYC, November 11, 2014