Acclaimed violinist led world’s most famous orchestras
VIRTUOSO violinist and long-time West Hampstead resident Raymond Cohen has died aged 91.
The revered musician, who lived in Alvanley Gardens for 28 years, enjoyed a phenomenally successful career as a solo violinist, playing concerts around the world.
He also achieved success as the leader of numerous respected chamber orchestras and, in 1959, he was invited to become the concertmaster of the Royal Philharmonic.
Born in Manchester, Mr Cohen studied under the former leader of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Henry Holst from the age of 13.
At 15, he won a scholarship to the Royal Manchester College of Music and went to on to become the youngest member of the Hall� Orchestra at just 16 years old.
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His notoriety as a solo violinist gained momentum in the 1940s – although the war forced him to take a brief sojourn from his career when he was called up to join the Royal Signals Band.
But even during this period, he was recognised for his talents when he won the first Carl Flesch International Violin Competition in 1945.
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Mr Cohen also revelled in “light” music and jazz and was known to lead Frank Sinatra concerts in London and on tours in Europe, Iran and Egypt.
Music played by orchestras which he led also feature in a number of films, including the James Bond movies, Sleuth and TV series such as Brideshead Revisited.
Mr Cohen’s wife, the pianist Anthya Rael, who he married in 1953, revealed that her husband also made some of his music in Hampstead.
She said that she, her husband and son Robert, who is a famed cellist in his own right, recorded the Dvorak piano trios at the Rosslyn Hill Chapel in Pilgrim’s Place.
Recalling her husband’s musical genius, Mrs Cohen, who now lives in Cricklewood, said: “He was a wonderful violinist – technically and naturally. He made the most beautiful sound and everyone loved this special beauty.”
Mrs Cohen said he was as popular as he was admired by the orchestras he led and was loved for his personal qualities as much as he was for his talents.
She said: “He had an extraordinary wit and quirky sense of humour. It was a very important part of him as a person. He was also an extremely generous person. Everybody he met loved him.
“It was interesting how much he touched people. It’s hard to put 58 years in one sentence, but for me he was never boring. There was always such a lot of life in him and when he was 91 he was still young in the heart as if he was 17.”
Mr Cohen died in January and leaves behind his wife Anthya and their daughter and son.