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Franklin Cohen

Franklin Cohen Photograph by Roger Mastroianni

Principal Clarinet
Robert Marcellus Endowed Chair
The Cleveland Orchestra

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 widespread 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 musician. 

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, Diana Cohen, Franklin Cohen is the co-artistic director of ChamberFest Cleveland, the first international summer chamber music festival in Cleveland, which presented its inaugural season in 2012 and received the first prize COSE Arts Business Challenge Award that year.  Its second sold-out season was presented during the summer of 2013.

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.

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, Miami, Orion, Shostakovich, Takács, Tokyo, and Ysaÿe string quartets and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.  Mr. Cohen has given masterclasses and seminars at prestigious universities and conservatories throughout the world.  His former students hold important positions in major orchestras in North America and Europe.

Mr. Cohen's two children are both graduates of the Cleveland Institute of Music. Diana is a concert violinist and Alexander is a professional timpanist.

Additional information can be found at  

July 2013