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James COHN (b.1928)
Miniatures [16:08]
Variations on Muskrat Ramble [3:07]
Piano Sonata No. 2 [11:25]
Piano Sonata No. 5 [8:50]
Americana [5:15]
Waltz in D [4:26]
Strutting Butterflies [1:33]
Piano Concerto (2000) [14:27]
Mirian Conti (piano)
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Vakhtang Jordania (concerto)
rec. 3-4 April 2008, Patrych Sound Studios, Bronx, NY; Riga Recording Company, October 2001 (concerto). DDD
XLNT MUSIC CD18012 [69:02]



Experience Classicsonline

The piano is at the centre of this collection of works by James Cohn, a composer favoured by the XLNT label and latterly by Naxos. His music is accessible and tuneful although by no means bland. The symphonies have their dissonant aspects but this is overridden by an idiom that moves between stylistic poles defined by Bartůk and by Vaughan Williams. 

The nine Miniatures were written for the Warsaw-born pianist Maryla Jonas who together with her husband is the dedicatee of Cohnís Variations on The Wayfaring Stranger which is to be heard on the Naxos orchestral collection 8.559376. Miniatures they may be but they are substantial pieces rising to impressive tragic heights in Drag. Thereís a bagpipe skirl and a highland lilt in Legend while Lullaby has a glass ballerina motion. The first and last pieces never move far away from a tangy hybrid of RVW, Grainger and Warlock in his most expressionist phase. 

The Variations picks up on the gawky nostalgia of Boogie in a pointed recollection of Kid Oryís Muskrat Ramble. This piece entertainingly references Bach and Scott Joplin as does Strutting Butterflies. The Second Piano Sonata was also written for Maryla Jonas. Itís all crystalline chiming and icy-cakewalk display. While the Fifth Sonata once again casts admiring glances at Haydn while packaging the goods in boogie-woogie. Americana is a brisk essay in popular culture with the vaguest hint of a smile. The Waltz in D (1957) was initially written a brass instrument octet. Cohn knew this piece was a winner and arranged it for full orchestra (Naxos disc) and as here for solo piano. 

The Piano Concerto is a compact little work lasting barely 15 minutes. It is heard here in a recording issued on an XLNT Music collection of Cohn concertos. The Concerto is a flighty little entertainer which should appeal to anyone who has a taste for the Kabalevsky concertos and Shostakovich 2 yet with Cohnís usual liberal sprinkle of sentimentality and light music delight. when he is in this mood he can be compared with John Carmichael and Grant Foster. 

Cohn with a lighter hand.

Rob Barnett

Previous Cohn reviews on MusicWeb International


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