Raymond Cohen (27 July 1919 - London, 28 January 2011) was an English classical violinist.
Early life and education:
Cohen was born in 27 July, 1919 in Manchester into a musical family (his father being his first violin teacher) and educated at Manchester Grammar School. At the age of fifteen he won the Adolph Brodsky scholarship to the Manchester College of Music. There he studied with Henry Holst, former leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and was soon recognised as a soloist of promise. It was not long before he began playing in the Hallé Orchestra as their youngest ever member.
Two summers were spent leading an orchestra in Blackpool where he gained experience playing music ranging from The White Horse Inn to Beethoven symphonies and appearing twice a week as soloist. With the war looming, and while still at college, Cohen appeared as soloist in concerts and broadcasts throughout the North of England; and at the age of 19 he played the Bach, Mendelssohn and Brahms concertos with the Hallé in one evening.
Cohen spent six years in the Royal Corps of Signals Band, playing the clarinet but still practising the violin at every available opportunity, learning new repertoire, and even playing the odd movement of a violin concerto (Mendelssohn's) with the band. By the time he was demobilised, he had a repertoire of nearly 40 violin concertos. While still in uniform he won the first Carl Flesch International Violin Competition. This brought him to the notice of the musical world and soon led to concerts and recitals all over Britain and Europe.
By this time Cohen was living in London, and alongside his solo career, was in demand as a chamber music player, orchestral leader and teacher. He was a professor at the Royal College of Music. He was leader of the Goldsborough Orchestra (later to become the English Chamber Orchestra) and led most of the country's leading chamber orchestras as well as the Philharmonia, the London Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestras. In 1959, at the invitation of Sir Thomas Beecham, he was appointed leader of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He held that position for six years. One of the highlights of that period was his appearance as soloist at the Royal Festival Hall with the RPO and Beecham in the Goldmark concerto.
During the six years as leader Cohen was still in demand as soloist and after leaving the orchestra he extended this area of his career. He appeared as soloist and recitalist with his wife Anthya Rael, in countries as far flung as the USA, New Zealand, Russia, and South Africa, as well as appearing frequently in Britain and Europe. He was soloist with such conductors as Barbirolli, Sargent, Kletzki, Kempe, Monteux, Boult and Beecham, and among his "firsts" were the first performance in Britain of the Kabalevsky concerto and the Shostakovich sonata, the first performance of the Skalkottas concerto in the composer's native Greece (Athens Festival), the first artist to appear on British television playing a violin concerto (the Mendelssohn), and the first performance on video in England of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.
Marriage and children:
In 1953 Cohen married the pianist Anthya Rael. She had come from her native South Africa to study with the pianist and teacher Ilona Kabos. They had two children: Gillian, a violinist, and Robert, a cellist. Raymond and Robert have given duo recitals and appeared together in the Brahms Double concerto; Anthya joined them to form the Cohen Trio. In 1993 Cohen was featured in a BBC radio programme called "The Musical World of Raymond Cohen" in which the entire family took part.