Isidore Cohen


President's Medal for Excellence (1985)
Beaux Arts Trio 30th Anniversary Concert
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John W. Ryan


Isidore Cohen, born December 16, 1922, in Brooklyn, New York was a renowned chamber musician and violinist, as well as a former member of the Juilliard String Quartet and Beaux Arts Trio.

Cohen began studying violin at age six, and graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, although his intention was to become a doctor. His pre-med studies at Brooklyn College were interrupted by a stint in Europe with the U.S. Army during World War II. After playing in both the Army's orchestra and jazz bands, he decided to pursue a career in music. Upon returning to civilian life, he became a student of Ivan Galamian at Juilliard.

In the 1950s, Cohen was serving as the concertmaster of the orchestras at the Casals festivals in France and Puerto Rico, in addition to several ensembles in New York City. While playing for Casals, he met Alexander Schneider, who invited Cohen to join his quartet as second violinist in 1952. During Cohen's tenure, the quartet recorded the first complete set of Joseph Haydn's string quartets, a milestone noted in Time magazine. Beginning in 1958, Cohen became second violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, a post he held for nearly a decade. As a member of the quartet, Cohen also served on faculty at Juilliard from 1958 to 1966.

In 1968, following the retirement of violinist Daniel Guilet, he was persuaded to join the Beaux Arts Trio by pianist Menahem Pressler and cellist Bernard Greenhouse. Though reluctant at first, he joined, and by the mid-1970s they were touring and recording as the world's best-known and busiest piano trio. During Cohen's time with the trio, dozens of recordings were released, including the complete piano trios of Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, as well as works by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Charles Ives, Antonín Dvořák, and Dmitri Shostakovich. After twenty-three years with the group, he was succeeded as violinist by Ida Kavafian. He died in New York during the summer of 2005.