90-year-old Douglaston composer debuts newest piece at the Tuesday Morning Music Club

Photo by Jenna Bagcal/QNS

Age hasn’t slowed down 90-year-old composer James Cohn, who just debuted his newest musical creation this week.

The Juilliard-trained composer and Douglaston resident had the honor of premiering his Sonata No. 3 at the Douglaston Tuesday Morning Music Club on Nov. 27.

A few dozen music enthusiasts gathered to listen to Cohn’s piece, which was performed by renowned violinist Eric Grossman and his wife, pianist Lida Grossman. According to Cohn, the piece was written specifically for the couple with whom the composer has been friends for a number of years.

“This wonderful violinist and his wife, I wrote this Sonata for them. I’ve known them for a long time and both of us [Eric Grossman and I] started and graduated at Juilliard. He is a terrific musician and what you heard today is just a chunk of what he is capable of,” said Cohn.

Following their performance, Eric Grossman shared the story of how he became acquainted with James Cohn and his wife Eileen Cohn through his chamber music series called The Cosmopolitan Chamber Players.

“The woman who was in charge of it, Rita Asin, introduced me to some of the most important people in my life: my wife Lita and James and Eileen Cohn,” said Eric Grossman, who added that was excited to record the newest Sonata for a wider audience to hear.

Since 1921, the Tuesday Morning Music Club (TMMC) has met up at the Community Church of Douglaston on the fourth Tuesday of the month from October through May (excluding December) to “enhance the cultural life of its membership and community by presenting the finest of music works and performers.”

According to Eileen Cohn, her husband’s music has been performed at TMMC for the past seven years, which is also around the time that he became a regular member of the group. She recalled that he was asked to join about 25 years ago, but was not able to due to his full-time job at The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).

Other performances included a medley of original songs and Christmas standards by guitarist Edmond and mezzo-soprano vocalist Carol Nicodemi, as well as a Claude Debussy performance by pianist Hiroko Miyake Dutton.

James Cohn, who has written four string quartets, six piano sonatas and nine symphonies, among other works, said that he is already working on his next piece, which is a double concerto for violin, viola and orchestra for the concertmaster of Altoona Symphony Orchestra.

He said that he likes to keep busy by writing music and referenced the Latin phrase “furor scribendi” — enthusiasm for writing — to describe his attitude toward his craft.

“I always feel that music is the intersection of logic and emotion; you need both,” said Cohn.

The next meeting of the Tuesday Morning Music Club will be on Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, at 11 a.m.