Jacques Cohen, conductor
Since 2005, Jacques has been Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Cohen 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 Cohen 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 arrangements are featured on the Transcriptions for Strings disc and are fast becoming staples of the string orchestra repertoire being frequently performed all over the world.
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
Norsk Musikforlag A/S, include a pair of oratorios Passion Fragment (The Denial of St Peter) (click here to see DVD) and Exodus Fragment (The Parting of the Waves) both commissioned and performed by Lloyd’s Choir and the Cohen Ensemble; Yigdal, performed by, among others, the Yehudi Menuhin Orchestra, Sofia Soloists and Cohen 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 (commissioned by National Youth Wind Ensemble of Great Britain and frequently performed by them and other wind orchestras), Concertino for brass quintet (commissioned and premiered by Onyx Brass at Kings Place as part of the Bach Unwrapped series), Castle Lament (commissioned, recorded and extensively toured by the Primrose Piano Quartet) and a film score, Jumpers. Other works for choir and orchestra include his large-scale Songs of Innocence and Experience premiered by Lloyd’s Choir and the Cohen Ensemble and Jubilate, commissioned by Berkhamsted Choral Society.
His 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.
More recently, Jacques conducted the premiere of his Love Journeys for soprano and strings at the Southbank Centre with the Cohen 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 premiered as part of the Music in the Village series. Click here to see DVD. Following the very successful premiere and broadcast of Prelude 49 for vibraphone and strings by Andrei Pushkarev and Kremerata Baltica in Latvia, the UK premiere of this piece was given at the Queen Elizabeth Hall by Dame Evelyn Glennie and the Cohen Ensemble. Dame Evelyn has continued to perform this piece since and last year premiered Jacques’s most recent percussion piece, Firefly for Xylophone and Strings with the Cohen Ensemble at the Apex, Bury-St-Edmunds.
The Primrose Piano Quartet has given several performances of the arrangement they commissioned of Ravel’s La Valse and Jacques’s latest programmatic string quartet From Behind Glass has been toured and enthusiastically received since its premiere by the Piatti String Quartet.
Jacques’s latest disc of his unaccompanied choral music with the Oxford Camerata entitled Cohen’s Carols has just been released on the ICSM lable. His new oratorio Creation, commissioned to commemorate the wonderful Christine Didelot, founder of the International Sangestevne Festival, is now re-scheduled for its premiere in 2021.
Other future plans include a new CD recording of The Lady of Satis House and From Behind Glass, the completion of his other opera Magic Potions (showcased at the Tête-à-tête Opera Festival in August 2010), two new large-scale orchestral pieces and the premiere of his symphony Adventures in Twilight.
Click here to see examples of Jacques in action: