A Song For Silenced Voices

The Music Of Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen composer

Panorámicos
Sirius Quartet
Anna Kislitsyna piano
Samantha Britt soprano
Elenora Pertz piano
The Fischer Duo

Release Date: February 4, 2022
Catalog #: NV6405
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Chamber
Solo Instrumental
Piano
String Quartet
Voice

New York City native Michael Cohen surprises with a formidable cross section of his oeuvre, the splendidly and mysteriously named A SONG FOR SILENCED VOICES. Narrowly skirting traditional notions of (a)tonality, this selection of works leaps to and fro between collected serenity and impassioned melodicism.

The setups are as diverse as the music: A SONG FOR SILENCED VOICES includes a string quartet, an excerpt of Cohen’s opera Rappaccini’s Daughter, a Prelude for Piano, a chamber/vocal work titled I Remember based on works from his musical Yours, Anne, as well as the album’s namesake piece, which happens to be not a song, but a duo for cello and piano. And yet, despite the varied instrumentation, the works are coherently tied together by Cohen’s compositional aptitude, which has remained remarkably constant across six decades. A true feat.

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Track Listing & Credits

# Title Composer Performer
01 I Remember Michael Cohen; Enid Futterman, text Panorámicos | Mary Kay Ferguson, flute, piccolo, alto flute; Ralph Curry, cello; Lisa Wellbaum, harp; Sandra Simon, soprano soloist 22:26
02 Prelude Michael Cohen Anna Kislitsyna, piano 3:20
03 String Quartet: I. Allegro Agitato Michael Cohen Sirius Quartet | Fung Chern Hwei, violin; Gregor Huebner, violin; Ron Lawrence, viola; Jeremy Harman, cello 8:44
04 String Quartet: II. Lento Michael Cohen Sirius Quartet | Fung Chern Hwei, violin; Gregor Huebner, violin; Ron Lawrence, viola; Jeremy Harman, cello 7:20
05 Just A Little Sky Away Michael Cohen; Linsey Abrams, lyrics Samantha Britt, soprano; Elenora Pertz, piano 3:40
06 A Song For Silenced Voices Michael Cohen Fischer Duo | Norman Fischer, cello; Jeanne Fischer, piano 8:57

I Remember
Session Producer & Engineer William Reed Simon
From the album REFLECTIONS, self-released in 2009

Prelude
Recorded July 3, 2021 at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport MA
Session Producer, Editing, Mixing Brad Michel
Session Engineer Tom Stephenson

String Quartet
Recorded May 9, 2021 at Oktaven Audio in Mount Vernon NY
Session Producer, Editing, Mixing Brad Michel
Session Engineer Charles Mueller

Just a Little Sky Away
Recorded January 10, 2021 at the Berlin State Opera House in Berlin, Germany
Audio & Video Recording Engineer Javier Bernardo from Recording On The Go

A Song for Silenced Voices
Recorded May 19, 2021 in Stude Concert Hall at Shepherd School of Music, Rice University in Houston TX
Session Producer Judith Sherman
Session Engineer Francis X. Schmidt

I would like to thank the entire PARMA team for all their help, and Edward Fleming, Mary Kay Robinson, John Petrone, and Rita Costanzi for their support and encouragement. — Michael Cohen

Executive Producer Bob Lord

Executive A&R Sam Renshaw
A&R Director Brandon MacNeil
A&R Chris Robinson

VP of Production Jan Košulič
Audio Director Lucas Paquette
Production Director Levi Brown
Production Assistant Martina Watzková
Mastering (tracks 1-2, 5-6) Melanie Montgomery
Mastering (tracks 3-4) Brad Michel

VP, Design & Marketing Brett Picknell
Art Director Ryan Harrison
Design Edward A. Fleming
Publicity Patrick Niland, Aidan Curran
Content Manager Sara Warner

Artist Information

Michael Cohen

Composer

New York City native Michael Cohen has a diverse and expansive career as a composer. His many compositions include works for chamber ensemble, musical theater, opera, and television. He attended the High School of Music and Art and the Dalcroze School of Music, graduated cum laude from Brandeis University, and studied composition with Harold Shapero and Irving Fine.

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Sirius Quartet

Ensemble

Internationally acclaimed veterans of contemporary music, Sirius Quartet combines exhilarating repertoire with unequalled improvisational fire. These conservatory-trained performer-composers shine with precision, soul and a raw energy rarely witnessed on stage, championing a forward-thinking, genre-defying approach that makes labels like 'New Music' sound tame.

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Anna Kislitsyna

Pianist

Pianist and harpsichordist Anna Kislitsyna made her solo debut at age 10 with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra. She remains in high demand as a soloist, collaborative pianist, and educator. Recent season highlights include five new album productions with PARMA Recordings and two release concerts in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, performing Haydn and Shostakovich Piano Concertos with Helena Symphony and Southeastern Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra, and returning to the Omsk Philharmonic as a soloist to give the inaugural performance on the new harpsichord.

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Notes

I Remember was commissioned by Lisa Hansen and the chamber group Serenata. The premiere was scheduled for November 19th, 1995 at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC. On November 16th, I received a memo that due to a government shutdown the concert would be cancelled. A blizzard in 1996 almost caused a second cancellation but the premiere finally took place February 4th, 1996.

The work is a loosely constructed song cycle whose source material is from my music-theater work Yours, Anne, based on the Anne Frank Diary with text by Enid Futterman. Each vocal section is separated by a musical interlude that either uses material from the music we just heard or introduces the next vocal section. The whole piece is connected by two recurring motifs. The three notes played by the cello at the opening of the work references “Dear Kitty” (Anne Frank called her diary Kitty), and the four note figure of “I Remember.”

The work has been performed in Holland, Great Britain, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, and at the Frick Museum in Pittsburgh. It has also been performed at many universities in the United States, including Texas Christian University, Kansas State University, the State University of New York, Hunter and Rider colleges, as well as the Canadian premiere at Capilano College in Vancouver.

— Michael Cohen

Both of these works date from my senior year at Brandeis University.

Brandeis had a fine faculty string quartet in residence, so I chose to compose a quartet as my graduation project. I was studying with Irving Fine at that time and decided to model the quartet after his work. The first movement is marked Allegro Agitato. Against a driving ostinato, the viola introduces the main motif which is then developed by the ensemble. The second movement is marked Lento and is a lyrical counterpoint to the intensity of the first movement.

The Prelude has been a favorite of mine, and I revised the piece in 2020. It is in a classic ABA form. The A section is a jaunty tune while the B section is lyrical and introspective. The return to the A section and a brief coda ends the piece with a flourish.

– Michael Cohen

This aria is from my opera Rappaccini’s Daughter, based on the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne with libretto by Linsey Abrams. In this scene, Beatrice, who has lived her whole life within the confines of her father’s home, catches sight of a young man on the balcony of a small garret overlooking her garden. Only now does she realize how lonely she has been.

— Michael Cohen

A Song For Silenced Voices (Recitative and Aria) was commissioned by cellist Semyon Fridman and premiered on New York radio station WQXR-FM February 27, 1995. I met Mr. Fridman after he performed one of my other chamber works. He told me he was Interested in commissioning a new work by an American composer. It seems that while in the Soviet Union, he was not allowed to perform American music. An upcoming recital on the WQXR series “On Air” Seemed the perfect time to rectify the situation… a new work by an American composer. Conceived as a “vocalise” or song without words, there is no specific text for the Recitative and Aria. The melancholy of the melodic material is probably due to the fact that this piece was written while I was working on a number of projects based on the writings of Anne Frank. The musical ideas here were not applicable to the Anne Frank project, but I felt a strong desire to express them and thus composed the Recitative and Aria.

While tonal for the most part, the piece evolves from a twelve tone row stated at the outset by the cello and immediately answered in reverse by the piano. From the intervals and rhythms of the opening bars, the aria emerges, develops, and recedes into B major, from atonality to tonality.

From intellectual to emotional. The work was revised and had its live premiere at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum on November 30, 1997 with cellist Steven Honigberg.

— Michael Cohen

Texts

Text by Enid Futterman

Dear Kitty
I am thirteen years old
It seems to me that no one will be interested in what I write
And yet I have to write
Something is buried deep inside my soul

My mother and my father
And Margot my sister
They love me
And all the boys like me
And I have friends
But I don’t have a friend
Not a real friend
So you will be my friend
Dear Kitty
Dear dear Kitty

I will tell you stories
I will tell you everything
I will show you all my feelings

You will be my conscience
You will be my confidante
You will keep my deepest secrets
My thoughts
My dreams
My plans

Dear Kitty
I suppose you would like to hear
What it feels like to disappear
I don’t know yet

I don’t think I will ever feel at home here
It’s like a holiday in the most peculiar boarding house
But it’s more of an adventure
Romantic
Interesting
Daring
Dangerous
It’s like a little light
Suspended in the darkness
Surrounded by the darkness
Sometimes, we laugh 
Somehow, I hide
I never, ever go outside

Dear Kitty
I am longing
Longing
To have a friend
To be alone
To talk
To cry
I believe that the sun is shining
I feel sunlight shining
I am restless
Breathless
Don’t know what to say
Don’t know what to read
What to write
What to do
I only know that I am longing
Aching
To see the world
To be myself
To breathe
To fly
I believe it is spring within me
I feel spring within me
I am dizzy
Crazy 
Don’t know what to do
Don’t know how to be
What to think
How to feel
I only know longing
Longing
Longing 

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born
Watching Grandma lighting candles on a summer Sabbath night
Staring at the light
I remember

Like a day ago
A year ago
A life ago
So clearly
So vaguely
So dearly
So longingly
I remember
And I forget

I remember, I remember
The house where I was born
I remember, I remember
The world where I was born
There was music; there was sunlight; there was life on every street
Every dream was sweet
I remember
I remember
I remember

Dark … night … cold … eyes
Dark eyes
Big dark eyes in the night
No face
No light
Only eyes
Huge and hungry eyes
She never said a word but I heard what she said with her eyes
Oh, Anne, you have deserted me. Why have you deserted me?
Why me? Help me
Oh, God, I have deserted her
Why have I deserted her? 
Why her? Help her
Save her from her hell
No face
No hair
Only eyes
Only eyes and bones 
It was me. She was… me. Oh, God.

Dear Kitty
I am fifteen years old
I don’t want to be like Margot and Mother and Mrs. van Daan
And all of the women who work all their lives and are forgotten
I’m afraid of the dark
I’m alone in the dark
I see something buried deep inside my soul

I’m facing myself
I’m facing the night
I know what I want
I know who I am
As long as I write
I can recapture everything 
As long as I know I can write
I know I can write
I know who I am
I see myself whole
As good as my heart
As bad as my dreams
As old as my soul
I can imagine anything 
As long as I know I’m alive
I still love life
This page is blank
I am Anne Frank

Dear Kitty
I see the world turning into a wilderness
Dear Kitty
I hear the ever approaching thunder
I feel the suffering of people being torn apart
And yet, in spite of everything
I still believe that people are good at heart
I still believe that someday this war will end
We will see peace again
Go home again
I still believe what I can
Yours, Anne

Lyrics Linsey Abrams

Just a little sky away,
He’s just a little sky away now.
He lives by a window,
I live by a wall.
In all my life I’ll never see the things that he’s seen.

Just a little sky too far,
Life’s just a little sky too far away,
A hope too high.

I’ve heard that friends walk hand in hand
And they don’t even have to talk
To understand each other’s feelings.

I never felt alone till now.
I have to see the world somehow.
Where the beauty lies you must be my eyes.
Show me all I’ve never known.

What if you’re not here tomorrow?
You’re just a little sky too far away,
A hope too high.

Never mind tomorrow,
You were here today.
Don’t let it end.
I’ve waited all my life to have a friend.

Not these feelings now.
I can’t have feelings now because he’s
Just a little sky too near.
He’s just a little sky too near to me.