Kohn, Karl (Georg)

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Kohn, Karl (Georg)

Kohn, Karl (Georg), Austrian-born American pianist, conductor, teacher, and composer; b. Vienna, Aug. 1, 1926. After the Anschluss in 1938, he emigrated with his family to the U.S., becoming a naturalized American citizen in 1945. He studied piano with C. Werschinger and conducting with Priiwer at the N.Y. Coll. of Music (graduated, 1944), then studied composition with Piston, Ballantine, Fine, and Thompson at Harvard Univ. (B.A., 1950; M.A., 1955), where he was a teaching fellow (1954–55). He also taught at the Berk shire Music Center in Tanglewood (summers, 1954, 1955, 1957). In 1950 he joined the music faculty at Pomona Coll. in Claremont, Calif., where he served as a prof, from 1965 to 1994. With his wife, Margaret, he performed the contemporary 2-piano repertoire in the U.S. and Europe. He also made appearances as a conductor. He held a Fulbright scholarship for study in Finland (1955–56), a Guggenheim fellowship (1961–62), and 4 grants from the NEA (1975, 1976, 1979, 1986). In his compositions, Kohn tends toward prudent serialism but also explores diatonic modalities, applying the power of pervicacious iteration of pandiatonic chordal complexes; he successfully adapts to contemporary usages medieval polyphonic devices such as the integration of precomposed thematic fragments, a technique anciently known as “centone” (literally, “patchwork quilt”). He makes use of topological rearrangements of Classical pieces, as in Son of Prophet Bird, dislocated and paraphrased from Schumann’s Bird as a Prophet.


orch.:Sinfonia concertante for Piano and Orch. (1951); Overture for Strings (1953); Castles and Kings, symphonic suite for children (1958); Concerto mutabile for Piano and Orch. (1962); Episodes for Piano and Orch. (1966); Intermezzo I for Flute and Strings (1969); Centone per orchestra (Claremont Music Festival, June 27, 1973); Concerto for Horn and Small Orch. (1974); Innocent Psaltery,”colonial music” (1976); The Prophet Bird I (metamorphosis of Schumann’s Bird as a Prophet; 1976) and II for Piano and Chamber Orch. (Los Angeles, March 9, 1982); Waldmusik, clarinet concerto (1979; also for Clarinet, Piano, and Wind Ensemble, 1983); Time Irretrievable (1983); An Amiable Piece for 2 Pianos, Winds, and Percussion (1987); Return, symphonic essay for Brass, Percussion, and Strings (1990); Ode for Strings (1991); Concert Music for Strings (1993); Memory and Hope: Essays (Stockton, Calif., April 9, 1997). Band: Serenade II (1977); Wind Chamber (1981). chamber: String Trio (1950); Concert Music for 12 Winds (1956); Violin Sonata (1956); Capriccios I for Flute, Clarinet, Cello, Harp, and Bassoon (1962) and II for Chamber Ensemble (1983); Serenade for Wind Quintet and Piano (1962); Kaleidoscope for String Quartet (1964); Encounters I for Flute, Piccolo, and Piano (1965), 17 for Horn and Piano (1967), III for Violin and Piano (1971), IV for Oboe and Piano (1972), V for Bassoon and Piano (1973), and VI for Cello and Piano (1977); Introductions and Parodies for Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon, String Quartet, and Piano (1967); Rhapsodies for Marimba, Vibraphone, and Percussion (1968); Impromptus for 8 Winds (1969); Trio for Violin, Horn, and Piano (1972); Brass Quintet (1976); Son of Prophet Bird for Harp (1977); San Gabriel Set for Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1984); Entr’acte for String Quartet (1985); Senza Sordino for Horn and Viola (1985); Choice Wood, Precious Metals for Flute, Trumpet, Marimba, and Glockenspiel (1986); Before Beethoven for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano (1989); Cassation for Wind Quintet (1990); Ternaries for Flute and Piano (1993); Set of Three: Start Piece (1995), Middle Piece (1994), and End Piece (1993) for Flute, Viola, Cello, Marimba, Vibraphone, and Piano; Reconnaissance for 11 Players (1995); SAX, for 4 for Saxophone Quartet (1996); More Reflections for Clarinet and Piano (1997); Capriccio for Violin, Alto and Soprano Saxophone, and Piano (1998); Toccata and Virelais for Accordion and Harp (1998); Trio, 2 K for Violin, Cello, and Piano (1999); a substantial body of pieces for 1 or 2 pianos; organ music. vocal: Choral works; songs.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire