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Reviews

SHIR CHADASH CD

“Cohen is a talented classical and theater composer whose settings of liturgy are beginning to find their way into the concert repertoire. This set showcases some of his liturgical writing, which is quite tuneful, but hardly easy listening (or singing). Like one of his teachers, John Corigliano, he is a gifted melodist who isn’t afraid to write “pretty” music, but there is a steeliness underling the melodies that prevents them from becoming the sort of cocktail-lounge droning that characterizes too much new Jewish shul music. Anyone who can listen to Janowski’s ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ and hear chords from Harold Arlen (a comparison Cohen made in recent interview) is a composer after my own heart and ears. Available from www.stevecohenmusic.net. Rating: **** 1/2.”
— George Robinson, The New York Jewish Week, September 8, 2009  


RIVERWALK

“Riverwalk, an SATB piece written for the British SaxShades quartet, is a single-movement jazz piece in swing style. The use of the word “swing” pertains not only to the swing-eighths time feel, but also to the pervasive cooking, swing band style.”
— David Demsey, Saxophone Journal July/August 2010, Volume 34, No. 6 


JUGGERNAUT 

“Friday’s SSO program had visceral appeal aplenty. The concert began with Steve Cohen’s ‘Juggernaut,’ as showy a piece of orchestral writing as I have heard in this relatively new millennium.”

The 2002 work clearly marks Cohen as an Eastman School-involved composer. The confident combination of a clean, crisp orchestration for a large group and the relative accessibility of the materials and harmonic touches of the work have strong roots undoubtedly planted by American composer and longtime Eastman guiding spirit, Howard Hanson.

‘Juggernaut’ works its way through other influences as well, such as the minimalism and pop/rock rhythms typical of John Adams, as well as the sweep and dash of some of the popular concert and film works of John Williams.

There were more advanced styles on display as well, but the gestures of the mechanistic and glowering opening, which occasionally returned throughout the piece, were eventually outweighed by the vigor on display. The composer joined Grant Cooper and the Syracuse Symphony on stage for a friendly reception by the SSO audience.”
— Chuck Klaus, The Post-Standard, January 21, 2006 

“Steve Cohen’s nifty orchestral composition ‘Juggernaut’ started with a nearly inaudible rumble in the bass drum and piano before the double basses stirred the murk to shape and drive it. 

It was lean-in-and-pay-attention stuff, which Cohen backed up with a 10-minute composition full of brilliant details - swirling textures, leaping rhythms, neat intertwining melodies and forceful, novel combinations of instrumental colors.

The piece, in its premier performance by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra on Friday night at the Clay Center, is this year’s winner of the Museum in the Community/WVSO Composer’s Award.

It created quite a buzz in the audience. When I asked around the balcony at intermission, I did not find anyone who did not enjoy the piece (and several said they were thrilled by it).

The middle section has a hammered chord that keeps interrupting, to its detriment, some beguiling work in the woodwinds and percussion, and the first climax sounds a tad routine. But that is small change in a fascinating piece that gripped one’s attention effortlessly and held it…”
— David Williams, Saturday Gazette-Mail, November 13, 2004 


SONATA FOR SOPRANO SAXOPHONE AND PIANO

“This is a superb piece, and a great addition to the repertoire, for professionals and for college student recitals.”
— David Demsey, Saxophone Journal July/August 2010, Volume 34, No. 6 

The jazz influence had… the first word, in Steve Cohen’s tuneful Sonata for Soprano Saxophone… Mr. Cohen’s score was at its most appealing at the start of its meditative Blues movement, when the music crawled through the lower reaches of the instrument’s range.”
— Allan Kozinn, New York Times, January 5, 2012

“This work uses the soprano saxophone as an expressive and energetic instrument of classical music in the outer movements. However, the subtone, glissandi, and ‘blue notes’ that define the ‘Blues’ make it as soulful a movement as you will hear outside of the Village Vanguard.”
— Anthony Balester, Outstanding Contemporary Saxophone Recordings and Works 


WIND QUINTET 

“Steve Cohen’s WIND QUINTET will appear on the new compact disc. The work was one of great harmony and drive.”
— Bob Cole, Centre Daily Times (State College, PA) 

“The three-movement WIND QUINTET (1982-3, rev. 1992) by Steve Cohen get the CD started off in fine fashion. The expanded tonal neo-classical style of the composer is readily accessible to any listener’s ears, especially with its sparkling, contrapuntal; tarantella/saltarello finale. I was very impressed with the light, witty spirit of the work.”
— The Double Reed, Reviewing the Pennsylvania Wind Quintet’s CD “Recent American Works for Winds” (2002)  


SAX QUARTET NO. 2 

“Recommended for high school and college quartets, or professional groups.

This 1998 quartet, by New York composer Steve Cohen, is recently published. It represents a beautiful example of contemporary neo-classical writing. Perhaps the best statement that can be made about the piece is that its musicality transcends the realm of the saxophone. Audiences who may be new to the concept of classical saxophone will be very moved by this piece’s lyricism, counterpoint, melodic interest and interplay.

Each of the four parts lays well on the instrument, and the music is beautifully engraved and easy to read. None of the parts are technically difficult, with no extended range issues or nasty technical passages. A good high school or college player could handle the technical challenges. That said, it takes a considerable amount of musicianship, thought, and group rehearsal to make this piece sing, as demanded by the lyrical melodic elements of this quartet, and the way the voices mesh (sometimes with lightning precision).

The first movement has the effect of an introduction, creating a flowing, pastoral atmosphere that opens with unaccompanied tenor, soon joined by all voices in some wonderful modulations and mode changes.

The second movement is a scherzo that features some interlocking acrobatics and great compositional effects that show off the saxophone’s agility. The composer’s notes mention the created illusion of circular breathing among the group, and a more percussive nature.

The third movement, an adagio, has the piece’s most lyrical moments, interspersed with jazz-like clusters in the ensemble.

The allegro giocoso finale is the most neoclassical of the four movements, and sets a playful mood with an ascending scale motive that is soon broken up and quickly passed around in fugue-like environments. This movement ties up the entire work by bringing in elements of the other three movements, cast as the half tempo pastoral melodic basis of bubbling melodic comments from solo parts.

This SATB quartet is a gem, and its approach is share by only a handful of other new compositions. It would be a beautiful addition to any professional quartet’s repertoire, and will teach any student group a great deal about the chamber music tradition.”
— David Demsey, Saxophone Journal, Volume 30, Number 3 Jan/Feb 2006 

“Steve Cohen’s Saxophone Quartet No. 2 (1998) is, on its surface, a pleasant piece. When one delves a bit deeper into its harmonic structure, one finds a vein of quintessentially American nostalgia…”
— William Zagorski, Fanfare (November/December 2001) 


LA PIZZA DEL DESTINO 

“‘La Pizza’ [was] one of the highlights of the evening…”
— Arthur Sainer, The Village Voice (1975) 


GILLES DE RAIS

“Steven Cohen’s mock-Renaissance score, for flute, percussion and amplified keyboards, is a model of what such things should be. I hope whoever stages the play subsequently…will have the sense to use it.”
— Michael Feingold, The Village Voice (1975)  


Testimonials 

“Steve is a talented composer and arranger in addition to being a bulldog with a magnifying glass as a proofreader!”
Steven M. Alper, composer/arranger/music director

“Steve is a complete, highly skilled musician who is a wonderful composer as well.”
— 
Paul Shapiro, The Main Man, Paul Shapiro Music

“Whenever I see Steve’s excellent work as a composer and arranger I always know I’m in good hands. His depth of knowledge and sensitivities to text and the needs of singers is always apparent. I think this also influenced by the fact that Steve is also an excellent singer. Another of Steve’s skills is musical transcription, which is an art he practices with care. As a composer and arranger, I always learn something from looking at his scores.”
Elliot Z. Levine, singer, Western Wind Vocal Ensemble
 

“Steve is a fantastic musician who is extremely versatile and eager to take on new assignments and challenges in any genre. I recommend him without reservation and with warmth and great confidence.”
Grant Cooper, Artistic Director at West Virginia Symphony Orchestra 

“Steve Cohen is a gifted composer. I can recall the music of an opera he wrote when he was about twenty one and I continue to admire all the wonderful music he has written for sax quartet, etc., up to and including the present time.”
Joe Gianono, freelance composer and arranger

“I am a professional classical singer based in New York City. A few years back, I recorded a piece that Steve wrote for 4 women’s voices. The piece was fantastic, and his way of working with us to get the best realization of the piece was very successful. The resulting CD was beautifully put together. He is very kind and friendly, and was very clear about what he wanted out of his project, which made my job as a singer much easier when I was recording for him. Steve and I have maintained a friendship ever since—our paths crossing from time to time in various musical situations. I very much look forward to another opportunity to work with him in the future.”
Kirsten Sollek, freelance classical singer

“Steven is an extraordinary composer, musician and person. It is a joy working with him and playing his music.”
Dr. Jasmin Bey Cowin, harpist, educator and lecturer

“Steve is a very creative artist. His insights into composing have helped me greatly in my own craft. This, coupled with a very warm disposition and affable nature makes him a great work partner.”
Erik Contzius, baritone, composer and cantor.

“”Steve wrote a beautiful piece of music, “Beloved,” for me to sing in my senior recital. Steve was an absolute pleasure to work with. He took the theme of my recital, along with my suggestions for text and created a masterful piece that suited my voice, was great for my choir, and was a highlight of my recital. The choir and I loved singing the piece, and the audience adored it. Steve has a great sensitivity in his writing and an excellent sense of expression. I truly enjoyed working with him.”
— Cheryl Wunch, Cantor at North Western Reform Synagogue, London, England.

 “Steve Cohen is a steady stream of inspiration and of stellar new scores for nearly every musical style and genre. His active involvement in collaborative projects is always with great integrity and sincere enthusiasm. It is a great pleasure to work with Steve Cohen, and I recommend him highly, without reservation.”
James Noyes, saxophonist/educator/composer