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DAME HARRIET COHEN (1895-1967)
British pianist



Harriet Cohen was a giant figure in the musical world of the first half of the 20th century.  She gave many world premiere performances including Ralph Vaughan Williams' Piano Concerto (which was written for her), and made the first recording of Edward Elgar's Piano Quintet with the Stratton Quartet under the composer's supervision. A number of the important composers of the day composed works for her, including John Ireland, Béla Bartók, Dmitri Shostakovich, Ernest Bloch, Dmitri Kabalevsky and E. J. Moeran.  And Sir Arnold Bax, who was Harriet Cohen's lover, wrote most of his piano music for her.

In the 1930s, she was actively involved in making the plight of the Austrian and German Jews known to the world.  She played concerts to raise money to help Jewish scientists get out of Germany.  Her efforts won her the friendship of such notables as Chaim Weizmann, the first president of Israel, Eleanor Roosevelt and Ramsay MacDonald

Harriet Cohen numbered among her close friends the likes of Elgar, Walton, Sibelius, Vaughan Williams, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and D. H. Lawrence, and  Arnold Bennett, as well as many important politicians and businessmen.  She was certainly one of the most famous musicians of her day and was was named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1938.

As a pianist, Harriet Cohen had a tremendous range, from Orlando Gibbons up to the music that was still beng written as she practiced.  But for me she was at her most magical playing Chopin.  The performance of the Opus 25 etude is nothing less than a three dimensional tone sculpture.  The F minor Nouvelle Etude gives Cortot a run for his money, particularly in the middle section which she plays as one long phrase, so gradually building to its understated climax that I daren't breathe until it has been reached.



Gibbons Five Pieces : 1 Ayre - 2 Alman (0:55) - 3 Toy (1:24)
4. Coranto (2:12) - 5 Mr. Sanders His Delight (3:36)

recorded in 1947




Bach choral "Ertödt' uns durch dein' Güte" from Catata 22

recorded in 1928




Bach Preludes & Fugues from Book I

Prelude 1 BWV 846 - Prelude 2 BWV 847 - Prelude & Fugue 3 BWV 848 - Prelude 4 BWV 849 - Prelude 6 BWV 851 - Prelude & Fugue 7 BWV 852 - Prelude & Fugue 9 BWV 854

recorded in 1928




Bach Prelude & Fugue 5 in D Major - Book I

recorded in 1928




Bach Preludes & Fugues in C sharp Major & c sharp minor - Book I

recorded in 1928




Bach / Petri Fantasia in c minor BWV 906

recorded in 1935




Mozart Piano Sonata in C Major K 330

i Allegro moderato - ii Andante cantabile 06:41 - iii Allegretto 11:18

recorded in 1932




Chopin Etude in c sharp minor Op 25 n7

recorded in 1928




Chopin Etude in f minor from Trois Nouvelles Etudes

recorded in 1939




Brahms Ballade in d minor, Op 10 no1

recorded in 1930




Brahms Intermezzo in B flat Major, Op 76 no4

recorded in 1930




Debussy "La Catédrale Engloutie" from Préludes Book 1

recorded in 1948




de Falla "Andaluza" from Cuatro piezas españolas,

recorded in 1943




Bax "Paean"

recorded in 1938




Elgar Piano Quintet in A minor, Op 84 (with the Stratton Quartet)

i Moderato - Allegro   ii Adagio 13:15   iii Andante - Allegro 24:57

recorded in 1933




Bax

Sonata for Viola and Piano (with William Primrose)

i Molto moderato  ii Allegro energico ma non troppo presto  iii Molto lento

recorded in 1937




Bath "Cornish Rhapsody"

Hubert Bath conducting the London Symphony Orchestra

recorded in 1944




Bax Morning Song, "Maytime in Sussex"

Malcolm Sargent conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra

recorded in 1947




Bax The Oliver Theme from "Oliver Twist"

with the Philharmonia Orchestra

recorded in 1947










For those of you who enjoy murder mysteries, here is my first with a strong musical polemic as background

Murder in the House of the Muse

which is also available as an audiobook.



And this is the more recently published second mystery in the series:

Murder Follows the Muse



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