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, recording and chamber artist, pedagogue and orchestral principal.
Since his first solo appearance with The Cleveland Orchestra in 1977, Mr. Cohen has been featured as soloist in nearly 200 performances — at Severance Hall, Carnegie Hall, Blossom Music Center, and on tour throughout the United States, Asia and Europe. In 1992, he recorded the Mozart Clarinet Concerto 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.
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.
Mr. Cohen’s professional music career was launched when Leopold Stokowski chose him as principal clarinet of the American Symphony Orchestra.
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 master classes 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.
A passionate advocate of music education, Mr. Cohen founded and funded “The Concert Club”, introducing young musicians to world class artists and performances at Severance Hall.
Mr. Cohen’s children are both members of the Calgary Philharmonic, Diana serves as concertmaster and Alexander is the principal timpanist.