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Cohen gives 60th birthday concert

Edward Cohen
Edward Cohen

In celebration of his 60th birthday, Senior Lecturer Edward Cohen will present his own public concert -- the first concert made up exclusively of his works -- on Sunday, Feb. 25 at 3pm in Killian Hall. The participants include some of Boston's most acclaimed musicians, including MIT faculty colleagues Marcus Thompson on viola and David Deveau on piano (both members of the Sonos Ensemble of professional musicians from the faculties of MIT and Boston University), and composer John Harbison, who conducts two works on the program.

"Most people know me more as a teacher than a composer, but I've been composing seriously throughout my years at MIT," Mr. Cohen said. "In the mornings I compose at home, and in the afternoons I come in to MIT and teach."

Mr. Cohen has been on MIT's music faculty since 1977, teaching courses in Western music, composition, advanced music writing, and harmony and counterpoint.

As an instructor, he heeds MIT's motto, mens et manus (mind and hand), requiring composition students not only to write and arrange their work but to then select musicians to perform their compositions, schedule rehearsal time and present a public concert.

"My composition students always ask me, 'when can we hear your music?'" Mr. Cohen said. "My 60th birthday seemed like a good time to take stock and share some of the works that I've written during my years at MIT."

Mr. Cohen has received numerous honors as a composer, including first prize in a new-works competition sponsored by the New England Conservatory and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, and commissions from the Raphael Trio (Trio, 1992) and the Council for the Arts at MIT (Invisible Cities, 1995). His one-act opera, Bezhin Meadow, was presented by Cornell University and the Ithaca Opera Association (1992) and his Clarinet Quintet was released on CRI Records.

Most of the works on his upcoming concert were composed in the last seven years, he said, and include three works written in 1999: Piano Quartet, Suite for Solo Flute and Five Pieces for Piano. Piano Quartet will be performed by Sonos both at the February 25 concert and at the ensemble's own concert on Friday, Feb. 23 at 8pm in Kresge Auditorium.

Other performers on the concert include Boston University faculty members Bayla Keyes on violin and Michael Reynolds on cello (also members of Sonos), flutist Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin, pianists Geoffrey Burleson and Tetyana Ryabchikova, mezzo-soprano Pamela Dellal, oboist Peggy Pearson, clarinetist Steve Jackson, violinist Hillary Foster, violist Anne Black and cellist Michael Curry.

"Ed is the consummate musician's musician," said Ellen T. Harris, professor of music and chair of the music and theater arts section. "He has not only taught MIT students for many years, but has always communicated to a wide audience through his own music. Music is his vehicle of expression."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 14, 2001.

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