The Brazilian-born pianist ARNALDO COHEN, now living in the United States, has long had a reputation for astonishing his audiences with the musical authority and blistering virtuosity of his performances. His graceful and unaffected platform manner belies playing of white-hot intensity, intellectual probity, and glittering bravura technique bordering on sheer wizardry. Long in demand internationally, Cohen has in the past few years entered a rarefied echelon among performers in America as well. He is regularly invited to appear as soloist with major orchestras, notably with the Philadelphia Orchestra under the distinguished conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch, and with such ensembles as the Cleveland Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His solo recitals everywhere draw enthusiastic crowds of cognoscenti. Critics, too, marvel at his mixture of musical complexity and élan.
After winning First Prize at the 1972 Busoni International Festival, Cohen scored a triumph at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Soon after he moved to London and went on to build a repertoire of some 50 concertos and to perform with such orchestras as the Royal Philharmonic, the Philharmonia, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, l'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and the Santa Cecilia Orchestra of Rome, collaborating with conductors Kurt Masur, Kurt Sanderling, Klaus Tennstedt, and Yehudi Menuhin (who described Cohen as "one of the greatest pianists I have ever heard").
"An underground swell of admiration, if not quite a cult, has developed around this dapper musician," wrote critic Allan Ulrich, "this is a fabulous talent." (San Francisco Chronicle, November 16, 2001) As a former professional violinist, teacher of physics, mathematics, cocktail pianist, and avid soccer fan, Cohen's unconventional background contributed to the aura of surprise and discovery that attended virtually every one of his public performances - a quality that greatly enhanced his success in the major concert halls of Europe and later the United States. Cohen's interpretations have been greeted with such sweeping accolades as "magisterial," "thrilling," "intrepid," "exultant," and "trenchant." In many cases his playing has on different occasions drawn favorable comparisons with the work of such very different artists as Richter, Horowitz, Arrau, Argerich, Serkin, Gieseking, Lupu, and Kissin, a testament to the protean nature of his musicianship and virtuosity. Despite these comparisons, however, Cohen has developed a voice entirely his own.
An active recitalist and chamber player, Cohen made a triumphant New York debut in 1997 at the prestigious Frick Museum, and repeated that success two years later in a dazzlingly successful recital at New York's 92nd Street Y. In addition to his recital and orchestral appearances, Cohen has dedicated himself to the art of chamber music. For five years he was a member of the prestigious Amadeus Trio and he has performed with many string quartets, including the Lindsay Quartet, the Chilingirian Quartet, the Orlando Quartet, and the Vanbrugh Quartet.
Cohen is a frequent recording artist. August 2004 saw the release of Cohen's second CD on the BIS label, an all-Liszt solo recording that includes the B-minor Sonata, Funérailles, Vallée d'Obermann, and the Spanish Rhapsody, a disc that has received a flood of accolades.
In 2007 BIS will release Cohen's recording of the two Liszt Piano Concertos and the Totentanz with the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra. In addition, Cohen's pioneering CD, Three Centuries of Brazilian Music, on the BIS label, has also been widely applauded by critics, with Bryce Morrison of Gramophone praising Cohen as "an intrepid explorer and immaculate pianist," and Jessica Dunchen of the International Piano Quarterly commenting, "Arnaldo Cohen's playing is technically superb and full of the foot-tapping impetuosity of Brazilian dance, but also projects a sense of affection and nostalgia that appeals straight to the heart. So this disc is a triumph on several counts: as a performance, as a manifesto for Brazilian classical music, and as a valuable resource to those wanting to explore this overly-neglected repertoire."
Cohen's previous recordings for other labels such as IMP Classics, Naxos, and Vox - all of which were awarded high praise - have included classic performances of works by Liszt, Schumann, and Brahms. " I know of no modern recording of the Brahms-Handel Variations that approaches this one." wrote piano authority Harold Schonberg in a review of Cohen's recording of the work for the Vox label.
An artist of diverse interests and talents, Cohen began his musical studies at the age of five, graduating from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro with an honors degree in both piano and violin, while also studying for an engineering degree. He went on to become a professional violinist in the Rio de Janeiro Opera House Orchestra to earn a livelihood while continuing piano studies with Jacques Klein, a disciple of the legendary American pianist, William Kapell. At the urging of Klein, Cohen pursued further training in Vienna with Bruno Seidlhofer and Dieter Weber.
Cohen is the recipient of a fellowship awarded by the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, and until recently held a professorship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. After living in London for 23 years, Cohen recently relocated to the United States with his American wife Ann, and now holds a piano professorship with tenure at Indiana University in Bloomington, where, upon his appointment, he was cited as "one of the world's greatest living pianists."