Read the full review at Gerald Cohen, Voyagers, New Music for String Quartet, Clarinet and Trombone, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review. “What matters in the end is the authentic and dedicated performativity of it all, the highly crafted and careful building of a particular work from the ground up with great care, skill, and eloquently inventive […]

Pittsfield High string quartet channels a dark but defiant corner of music history in ‘Playing for Our Lives’ Posted Monday, July 15, 2019 6:42 pm, Berkshire Eagle By Jenn Smith Here for link to original article in the Berkshire Eagle LENOX — Out of one of the darkest eras in human history, the Holocaust, rose some powerful musical performances […]

…[Clarinetist Vasko] Dukovski brought clarity and agility to both works, and also to Gerald Cohen’s “Voyagers” (2017), in which he joined the Cassatt players, on several kinds of clarinets, in a tribute to the two Voyager spacecrafts, launched in 1977 and still hurtling through space. There are, as you might expect, passages that evoke the eerie loneliness of the spacecrafts’ journeys. But much of the work is vigorously animated.

Cohen based parts of the score on pieces from the Voyagers’ golden discs – selections of music, natural sounds, speech and photographs, meant to convey an impression of Earth to distant civilizations that might decode them. His choices were a Renaissance dance, a Beethoven quartet and a Hindustani vocal piece, but though he briefly quotes each, he quickly deconstructs them and spins imaginative fantasies around their essential elements in his own freewheeling, largely neo-Romantic style…

As a composer of vocal music—opera, choral, solo—I am always on the prowl for texts for vocal works and for stories which have potential as operas. Very often, as I read a novel or hear some fascinating true tale, my “operatic mind” starts imagining what the story would be like on stage with music, thinking about both the creative aspects (what opportunities are there for cool vocal ensembles in this story?) and practical ones (would this need too huge a cast to make it work as an opera?). There are such a variety of types of stories that could conceivably be transformed by composers and librettists when creating an opera; many recent operas have been based on well-known movies or novels, or on recent events in history. But sometimes a riveting plot for a dramatic work can be found in the stories of the people in one’s own life—and the close personal connections in such stories can be significant in generating the emotional energy needed to create and present a new opera…

“Sometimes, truth is stranger than opera. In this touching work by composer Gerald Cohen and librettist Deborah Brevoort (seen Jan. 25), Jaap, an unhappily married fellow, falls for Ina, an engaged woman just before they are both swept away by the Nazis along as part of a group of 400 Amsterdam Jews… Baritone Gideon Dabi (Jaap) and soprano Inna Dukach (Ina) delivered Cohen’s accessible writing with admirable control and ideal enunciation… Company music director Ari Pelto… guided a solid, sympathetic accompaniment through the score’s many mood shifts and changes in meter. “

The world premiere of Steal a Pencil for Me opens this Thursday evening—and few people know better than Opera Colorado Music Director Ari Pelto the long and exciting process of getting this new opera ready for the stage. Over the past five years, he’s spent countless hours working through the piece with composer Gerald Cohen and librettist Deborah Brevoort, then working with stage director Omer Ben Seadia and her creative team as they got the production ready. And now, after a breakneck rehearsal schedule over the past month, Pelto is thrilled for Opera Colorado audiences who are just days away from experiencing the beautiful music and powerful message of Steal a Pencil for Me. Today we check in with Pelto about his experiences with this opera…