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Principal Clarinetist Franklin Cohen to retire from Cleveland Orchestra in 2015

One of Cleveland’s most celebrated musicians is the Orchestra’s longest-serving Principal Clarinet;

He is also among the most-often appearing concerto soloists in the Orchestra's history;

He will make a farewell appearance as concerto soloist with the Orchestra at Blossom on July 26, 2015

For release:  December 21, 2014

CLEVELAND – The Cleveland Orchestra today announced that Franklin Cohen, Principal Clarinet since 1976, will retire from the ensemble in the summer of 2015.  After 39 seasons, Mr. Cohen will have had the longest tenure of any solo clarinetist in the orchestra's history.  The title of Principal Clarinet Emeritus will be bestowed on Mr. Cohen next summer upon retiring.  He will be the first Cleveland Orchestra musician officially recognized with this honor.

Mr. Cohen joined The Cleveland Orchestra at the invitation of Music Director Lorin Maazel.   In 1968, he gained international recognition as the first clarinetist to win the First Prize at the prestigious Munich International Music Competition.

Mr. Cohen is one of the few musicians of his time to combine a world class solo, chamber, and orchestral career.   He is widely considered among the great musicians of his generation.   Acclaimed for the strength, passion and beauty of his playing, he is one of the most frequent concerto soloists in the history of The Cleveland Orchestra, appearing as soloist at Severance Hall, Blossom Music Center, Carnegie Hall, and on tours throughout the United States, Asia and Europe to critical acclaim.

Over the span of Mr. Cohen’s career, he has been heard in many thousands of concerts and broadcasts.   His commercial recording credits won a Grammy Award and much critical acclaim.  His unique, expressive sound and musicianship have brought a distinctive voice to The Cleveland Orchestra for many years.   He has earned glowing praise for his poignant musicality and technical mastery.  Mr. Cohen has performed with many of the great string quartets of the 20th Century.

He has taught and performed at virtually all the major American music festivals and has served as Department Head at the Cleveland Institute of Music for 39 years.   He has been an honored juror at many prestigious international music competitions.

Two special concerts in tribute to Mr. Cohen’s distinguished career are being planned:

  • June 19, 2015 — Celebration Concert, ChamberFest Cleveland, at Harkness Chapel
  • July 26, 2015 — Blossom Music Festival Concert with The Cleveland Orchestra , conducted by Jahja Ling

In demand internationally as both a performer and teacher, Mr. Cohen looks forward to an expanded career as soloist and collaborative artist, in addition to mentoring the next generation of young musicians. His new multi faceted artistic life will take him to Asia, Italy, Scandinavia, France, South America, Canada and throughout the United States.  Mr. Cohen will continue as co-artistic director of the acclaimed ChamberFest Cleveland, will launch a new custom-made clarinet mouthpiece company and also plans to conduct.  He also looks forward to traveling the world with friends and family.


Principal Principal Clarinet of The Cleveland Orchestra since 1976, Franklin Cohen has distinguished himself as one of the outstanding clarinetists of his generation.   His playing has been described as “hypnotic, impeccable, brilliant . . . with a vocal quality that would be the envy of any singer.”   He first gained international recognition and acclaim when, at the age of 22, he became the first clarinetist awarded first prize at the International Munich Competition (the other first prize that year went to soprano Jessye Norman).   Since then, Mr. Cohen has enjoyed an illustrious career as soloist, recitalist, chamber artist, pedagogue and orchestral principal.

For the 1968 Munich Competition, Mr. Cohen played Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.   He has performed this piece often with The Cleveland Orchestra and recorded it in January 1992 with the Orchestra and Christoph von Dohnányi for Decca Records.   Mr. Cohen is also the soloist in Debussy’s First Rhapsody on a Deutsche Grammophon recording conducted by Pierre Boulez that won two Grammy Awards in 1996, and on a Decca recording of the Brahms Clarinet Sonatas with pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy.   Since his first solo appearance with The Cleveland Orchestra, Mr. Cohen has been heard as a concerto soloist in nearly 200 performances — at Severance Hall, Carnegie Hall, Blossom Music Festival, and on tour across the United States, and in Asia and Europe. 

With his daughter, violinist Diana Cohen, Franklin Cohen is the co-artistic director of the critically acclaimed ChamberFest Cleveland, the first international summer chamber music festival in Cleveland, which presented its inaugural season in 2012.  ChamberFest’s  huge success has led to an expanded  vision for  growth locally and internationally.

A native New Yorker, Franklin Cohen started music lessons with his mother, a professional pianist.  He began clarinet studies at the age of 10, and his professional music career was launched when Leopold Stokowski chose him as principal clarinet of the American Symphony Orchestra while a student at Juilliard.

As a recitalist and chamber artist, Mr. Cohen has participated in the Aspen, Blossom, Casals, Marlboro, Santa Fe, and Sarasota music festivals.  He has also been a featured artist with many of the world’s leading chamber groups, including the Emerson, Guarneri, Takács, Tokyo, Miro,Miami, Orion, Shostakovich, Cavani and Ysaÿe string quartets and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  In addition, Mr. Cohen has collaborated with leading artists including Emanuel Ax, Pinchas Zukerman, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Jessye Norman, Menahem Pressler and Heidi Grant Murphy, among many others.  Mr. Cohen has given countless masterclasses and seminars at prestigious universities and conservatories throughout the world.  His former students hold principal positions in major orchestras in North America, Europe, Mexico and Asia.

Mr. Cohen’s two children both graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music and are currently members of the Calgary Philharmonic, Diana serves as concertmaster and Alexander is the principal timpanists.

Additional information can be found at:

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