About

Jacques Cohen, conductor

Jacques read music at Oxford where he conducted the university orchestras and performed several of his own compositions. When leaving Oxford, he was awarded the Conducting Scholarship at the Royal College of Music where he later won the Tagore Gold Medal, the College’s prize for its most outstanding student. Since then he has won several other awards including the August Manns Conducting Prize and the Constant and Kit Lambert Award. He took First Prize in the British Reserve Conducting Competition and was also a prize winner in the Leeds Conductors’ Competition.

Since 2005, Jacques has been Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Isis Ensemble which he formed from high-profile chamber musicians, soloists and leading players in the established UK orchestras, and which now regularly performs at London’s Southbank Centre and around the UK.

Other orchestras that he has recently appeared with include the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Kremerata Baltica, Radio-Television Symphony Orchestra of Albania, Sofia Soloists and Radom Chamber Orchestra (Poland). He has conducted concerts with the BBC Concert Orchestra and been a regular guest-conductor with the Bucharest Philharmonic since 2003. He is Principal Guest Conductor with the City of Oxford Orchestra and before that he worked with the London Symphony Orchestra (Assistant Conductor), Bombay Chamber Orchestra and has guest conducted literally dozens of orchestras both in the UK and abroad. He has conducted several major opera productions with numerous companies, most recently as Music Director of Opera in the City.

In addition to his work with professional musicians, Jacques loves working with younger players, having conducted concerts with leading youth and student orchestras both in the UK and abroad. Recently, he has been conducting the Symphony Orchestra at the Purcell School where he is also currently giving classes and seminars in composition. He has been a regular guest conductor at the Royal College of Music and from January 2016 was appointed Principal Conductor of that institution’s Junior Department Symphony Orchestra. He has also given seminars and master-classes in conducting and conducted concerts and at Trinity College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire.

He has recorded CDs for a variety of labels, notably Meridian, with whom he recorded both the critically acclaimed Music for Strings and the more recent Transcriptions for Strings CDs with the Isis Ensemble. He has conducted performances of both his own music and that of other composers on radio and television including a momentous performance of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Three Screaming Popes for BBC Radio 3.

Jacques conducts an extremely wide repertoire from Monteverdi to the present day. His performances of the mainstream 19th and 20th century repertoire have been particularly acclaimed for their uniquely fresh and exciting quality and this has made him popular with both listeners and fellow musicians. A creative conductor, Jacques has enhanced his programmes with several arrangements and orchestrations (published by Norsk Musikforlag A/S) which include Rachmaninov’s Piano Prelude Opus 3, No.2, Brahms’ First Clarinet Sonata arranged for clarinet and strings and Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition for strings. All 3 are featured on the recent Transcriptions for Strings disc.

He is an enthusiastic communicator and has a growing reputation for his ability to explain music in an entertaining way and get audiences more involved in concerts. He is a passionate advocate of music by living composers, having a highly distinctive voice as a composer himself.

Jacques Cohen, composer

His own compositions, also published by Norsk Musikforlag A/S, include a pair of oratorios Passion Fragment (The Denial of St Peter) and Exodus Fragment (The Parting of the Waves) both commissioned and performed by Lloyd’s Choir and the Isis Ensemble; Yigdal, performed by, among others, the Yehudi Menuhin Orchestra, Sofia Soloists and Isis Ensemble (who also commercially recorded it); Quiet Music which is regularly performed both in the UK and abroad; Three Nottingham Dances, commissioned by the Nottingham Philharmonic; and a Tuba Concerto, commissioned by Oren Marshall. His award winning Elegy on a Floating Chord (commissioned by Oxford University Chamber Orchestra) and Fantasias, Canons & Fugues (premièred by the Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra), have both been performed and broadcast several times internationally. Other commissions include Pantheon (National Youth Wind Ensemble of Great Britain), Concertino (Onyx Brass), Castle Lament (Primrose Piano Quartet) and a film score, Jumpers. Other works for choir and orchestra include his large-scale Songs of Innocence and Experience and Jubilate, commissioned by Berkhamsted Choral Society.

miss-havisham-183x300His chamber opera about Miss Havisham from Dickens’ Great Expectations, The Lady of Satis House was premiered by Marie Vassiliou and the Piatti Quartet at the Tête-à-tête Opera Festival in 2012. Click here to see DVD.

Last year, he conducted the première of his Love Journeys for soprano and strings at the Southbank Centre with the Isis Ensemble and Marie Vassiliou. This work received excellent notices, and was shortly followed by Nun danket alle Gott commissioned for the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and premièred in April as part of the Music in the Village series. Click here to see DVD. He conducted Kremerata Baltica in a programme including his arrangement of Pictures (which the Kremerata has since been touring extensively) and the Kremerata also gave the first performance of his Prelude 49 for vibraphone and strings with Andrei Pushkarev as soloist. The UK première of this piece was given at the Queen Elizabeth Hall by Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Isis Ensemble, again conducted by the composer. Other new recordings include Strauss’ Four Last Songs at Abbey Road Studios with soprano Nadine Mortimer Smith and St Paul’s Sinfonia.

He has recently completed an arrangement commissioned by the Primrose Piano Quartet of Ravel’s La Valse which is already scheduled for several performances and is now working on a new piece for another of the UK’s leading string quartets. Other future plans include the completion of his other opera Magic Potions (showcased at the Tête-à-tête Opera Festival in August 2010), a new orchestral piece and the première of his vast symphony Adventures in Twilight.


Click here to see examples of Jacques in action:


Glazunov Symphony no. 6 - 1st movement


Glazunov Symphony no. 6 - 2nd movement