Thursday, August 6, 2009

Raymond Cohen

Raymond Cohen is an English violinist born on July 27, 1919 (Heifetz was 18 years old.) He first studied violin with his father in Manchester. At 15, he entered the Manchester College of Music where he studied (for four years) with Henry Holst, former concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic. Soon thereafter, still aged 15, he joined the ranks of the famed Halle Orchestra, based in Manchester - the youngest member of England’s oldest orchestra (founded in 1858.) At age 18, he became concertmaster of the Blackpool Orchestra, a city less than fifty miles from Manchester. While still studying, he concertized extensively, playing the concertos of Mendelssohn, Beethoven, Busoni, Sibelius, and others. In 1940, he played a historic concert with the Halle Orchestra – still only 19 years old – in which he played the Bach (E Major), the Mendelssohn, and the Brahms concertos in the same evening. Few violinists have ever attempted or accomplished such a feat, though Yehudi Menuhin was one who did. The Second World War interrupted Cohen’s fast rise but he re-emerged in 1945 by winning the Carl Flesch Violin Competition. Soon, he had a full schedule of concerts in Europe, having more than 40 concertos in his repertoire by then. However, he slowly gravitated toward concertmaster positions everywhere – English Chamber Orchestra, Philharmonia, London Symphony, BBC, and Royal Philharmonic (1959, under Thomas Beecham.) He also started teaching at the Royal College of Music in London. In addition, he was very active in the chamber music arena. With his pianist wife (Anthya) and son Robert (a cellist), he eventually formed the Cohen Trio. He was the first to realize a videotaped performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. He has also recorded the entire set of Beethoven Violin Sonatas for the Meridian label. Raymond Cohen teaches privately and is on a very short list of distinguished elder statesmen of the violin still working – with Zvi Zeitlin, Ruggiero Ricci, Ida Haendel, and Ivry Gitlis.


  1. Raymond Cohen passed away on the 28th of January, 2011, at age 91.

  2. As of August 20, 2012, Zvi Zeitlin and Ruggiero Ricci have also passed away.