ALLA ELANA COHEN is a distinguished composer, pianist, music theorist and teacher who came to the United States from Russia in 1989. Graduating from the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory with the highest honors of distinction, Ms. Cohen lives in Boston, and is a professor at Berklee College of Music. Her latest release, JUPITER DUO, came out in January 2018 on Ravello Records.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a composer?
I started to play the piano when I was five years old, and began composing at the age of six. Since then I realized that it’s what I want to do always — for my entire life. Being a musician, a composer, is not only what I do, it is what I am. It’s not only what I can do, but rather what I can’t not do! I’ve also written poetry from very early age and consider poetry my second vocation.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I don’t know if these should be called “guilty pleasures”, but what I enjoy the most is reading masterpieces of world literature, poetry and prose (I have a lot of excellent books at home) and also Sudoku (at the highest level of difficulty!). A literary masterpiece can be read and re-read many times just as we can enjoy listening multiple times to any immortal symphony, opera, or sonata. First and foremost, I love German literature; my favorite 20th Century writers are Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse, and of course I love anything written by Goethe, Schiller, von Kleist, Grillparzer, and many other great German writers and poets. I also love Russian classical literature.
If you could do any job in the world and make a living at it, what would that be?
I wouldn’t want to do anything in the world but what I am doing now – being a composer/pianist! It would be so wonderful, if one could really make a decent living, being a composer of art music! It’s no secret that the vast majority of composers of art (concert) music, no matter how talented, have to either teach, or perform to make a living, or they also write popular music in addition to concert music, if they’re so inclined.
Which track on JUPITER DUO is your favorite?
All my pieces on the CD are dear to me (as they should be dear to any composer who performs and records his/her pieces) – in the sense of the quality of my music and the quality of its performance. Each of my pieces has its own unique character and reflects different facets of my style and creative personality – there is no sense to record anything otherwise!
What does this album mean to you personally?
This album means so much for me first and foremost, because it is the celebration of many years of my creative collaboration with the great musician and incredible cellist Sebastian Baverstam, for whom I composed a veritable library of pieces for cello and piano, for solo cello, and with whom I continue to collaborate. When Sebastian Baverstam plays, every note is the most phenomenal, sublime musical experience!