Jacques Cohen is equally known as a conductor and a composer. He is the Music Director of the Cohen Ensemble (formerly known as the Isis Ensemble) and has conducted concerts and broadcasts with such groups as Kremerata Baltica, National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, Sofia Soloists, BBC Concert Orchestra, Albania Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra and Bucharest Philharmonic. He has also worked as the Music Director on several major opera productions with a variety of companies. Frequently heard on radio both here and abroad, he has recorded a number of CDs, including Music for Strings and Transcriptions for Strings with the Cohen Ensemble on the Meridian label, both of which attracted excellent reviews in the international music press. He also enjoys working with younger musicians – he has conducted many of Europe’s finest student orchestras, has been the Principal Conductor of the Royal College of Music Junior Department Symphony Orchestra since 2016 and gives regular composition classes at the Purcell School.
Jacques read music at Oxford, where he conducted the university orchestras and performed his own compositions. On leaving Oxford, he was awarded the Conducting Scholarship at the Royal College of Music, where he won several prizes, including the Tagore Gold Medal, the college’s award for its most outstanding student, before going on to work as Assistant Conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra. He took First Prize in the NAYO British Reserve Conducting Competition and was also a Prizewinner in the Leeds Conductors Competition. Other accolades include the August Manns Prize and the Constant Lambert Award.
Jacques’ compositions, published by Norsk Musikforlag, include music for choir, orchestra, chamber works and opera. In the last few years his commissions have included pieces for Dame Evelyn Glennie (Firefly), the Piatti Quartet (From Behind Glass), the Fitzwilliam Quartet (Nun danket alle Gott), the National Youth Wind Ensemble (Pantheon), Tête-à-tête opera (The Lady of Satis House) and Lloyd’s Choir (Exodus Fragment – The Parting of the Waves).
At present, some of his most performed compositions are for strings and these include Yigdal (recorded for Meridian) and Love Journeys (with solo soprano), whilst his string orchestra arrangements, particularly that of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, are fast becoming staples of the repertoire.
Although he has written a great deal of instrumental and orchestral music, this disc testifies that Jacques is equally at home writing for voices. In addition to his numerous compositions for unaccompanied choir, he has composed four substantial pieces for chorus, soloists and orchestra, which include Songs of Innocence and Experience and Passion Fragment (The Denial of St Peter), both of which have been performed several times. The most recent and largest of these, an exciting and radical new setting of Creation, which combines biblical and modern texts, originally commissioned by the late Christine Didelot, founder of the International Sangerstevne Choral Festival, is due to receive its premiere in 2021.