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Trio for a Spry Clarinet, Weeping Cello, and Ruminating Harp

December 18, 2016: Emmanuel Ceyssonu, harp; Jerry Grossman, cello; Inn-hyuck Cho, clarinet

An active composer, performer, and theorist, Israeli musician Gilad Cohen focuses on a variety of musical genres that include concert music, rock, and music for theater. His works have been performed in North America, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East by renowned artists ranging from London’s Nash Ensemble and the Apollo Chamber Players to the Brentano Quartet and Tre Voci (Kim Kashkashian, Marina Piccinini and Sivan Magen), as well as orchestras and choirs throughout Israel and his own rock band, Double Space.

Recipient of myriad honors and top composition prizes, Cohen was recently awarded the 2016 Barlow Prize, resulting in the commission of a duet for violin and piano that will be premiered by a consortium of performers. His other recent and current projects include Around the Cauldron, commissioned by Concert Artists Guild with support from the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund, to be premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2017, and Doaa and Masa, which will be premiered this year by harpist Sivan Magen in Hong-Kong, Israel, and Columbia. He is also working on a new quintet for the 10th anniversary of the Israeli Chamber Project for premiere performances on their 2018 tours.

On the rock/pop front, Cohen’s music for Double Space and modern-klezmer ensemble Klezshop was awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Songwriting Award in the 11th Annual Great American Song Contest and was a finalist at the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. As a theorist Cohen has researched structure in the music of Pink Floyd, resulting in articles in prestigious publications, lectures in the U.S. and Israel, a four-credit course at Ramapo College, and the first-ever academic conference devoted to Pink Floyd that he coproduced at Princeton University with composer Dave Molk. As a performing musician, Cohen has played piano, bass guitar, and guitar at renowned venues worldwide, and he has served on occasion as a choral conductor and music director of musicals.

A faculty member at Ramapo College, Cohen holds a Ph.D. in composition from Princeton University, and he is a graduate of Mannes College of Music, the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, and the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Workshop. Among his principal teachers were Robert Cuckson, Steven Mackey, and Paul Lansky.

Cohen composed his Trio for a Spry Clarinet, Weeping Cello, and Ruminating Harp in 2009 (revised 2010) on a commission from the Israeli Chamber Project. ICP members Tibi Cziger, Michal Korman, and Sivan Magen gave the premiere at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in New York on May 14, 2009, and the work went on to win the 2013 International Composition Competition of the American Harp Society in Dallas. The Trio will also be played this year by members of the Sinfonieorchester Münster (Germany), the Kassia Ensemble at Chamber Music Pittsburgh, and the Exponential Ensemble at New York’s National Opera Center.

The composer writes: “When approaching the task of writing a piece for the unusual instrumentation of clarinet, cello, and harp, I have been influenced by a mixture of different musical styles that, in my mind, relate to these instruments: folk music, Jewish klezmer, impressionism, and rock (after all, it is a known fact the cello originated from the electric guitar). As it often happens, the result is somewhat different than the original plan, but some elements from these genres have still found their way to the final version.

“The Trio is loosely constructed out of three movements that are played in a row and offer different versions of similar themes, while each instrument aims to pull the musical style in its own direction. While the first movement showcases the clarinet in some klezmer figurations, the second features a texture that resembles a rock band: the cello is ‘soloing’ on top of a rhythmic accompaniment by the harp and a funky bass line by the bass clarinet. At the beginning of the closing movement, the harp reintroduces earlier themes in a gentler and somewhat impressionistic mood. Toward the end of the piece, there is a triumphant moment at which all instruments showcase their individual variations simultaneously. Thus, they celebrate their differences in tone as well as their blend together.”

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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