Composer Gerald Cohen has been praised for his “linguistic fluidity and melodic gift,” creating compositions with “a strong sense of tradition — one that embraces Brahms, Bartok and Britten on one hand and his own Jewish heritage on the other” (Gramophone Magazine). His deeply affecting compositions have been recognized with numerous awards and critical accolades.
His opera, Steal a Pencil for Me, based on a true concentration camp love story, had its semi-staged premiere in 2013. Lucid Culture’s review 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.
Recognition of Cohen’s body of work includes the Copland House Borromeo String Quartet Award, Aaron Copland Award, Westchester Prize for New Work, American Composers Forum Faith Partners residency, 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, 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.
A recording of compositions performed by the Grneta Ensemble, Sea of Reeds (Navona Records), was just released in November 2014. Lucid Culture proclaimed Grneta Ensemble’s concert featuring his compositions as one of the “best of the year.” An earlier album devoted to his chamber, choral and solo vocal compositions, Generations (NWCRI), includes performances by the composer. Cohen’s compositions are published by Oxford University Press, G. Schirmer/AMP and Transcontinental Music Publications.
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