This pianist, IMHO, deserves more attention. The following article was featured on SeatlePI.com. For those interested, his recordings can be found under Naxos.
Brazilian-born pianist's route to acclaim was all over the map
By R.M. CAMPBELL
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER MUSIC CRITIC
Arnaldo Cohen, who appears in recital Wednesday night at Meany Hall, has become a much sought after pianist on the international circuit. He joins the University of Indiana's prestigious music faculty this fall as a full professor.
The path to acclaim was not an easy or direct one for this pianist.
Born in Rio de Janeiro of immigrant parents (Ukrainian mother and Palestinian father), he was reared with the idea of choosing a career for financial security -- a doctor or lawyer. However, his dentist father thought music a good educational stimulus, so a daughter began with the piano and Cohen, the violin, which his father thought was a more appropriate instrument for a boy. He got to the keyboard by teasing his sister with picking out the tunes of music she was working on by ear and through the great Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau who said the boy should be allowed to study the piano. His father gave in, but Cohen continued to study the violin as well. Still music was not to be his sole training, with engineering a major in college.
Working to support himself, Cohen was the concertmaster in the Rio de Janeiro Opera House Orchestra but continued his piano studies. His teacher, Jacques Klein, said point blank, in Cohen's words, "You don't know anything about anything but you have all the right instincts to have a good career. I didn't know what a career meant except in films." So, off he went to Vienna to study with the same teachers as other well-known pianists from Latin America -- Martha Argerich and Nelson Freire.
Vienna was not for Cohen -- especially the fifth floor walkup with no heat -- and he left after a year and returned to Rio where he prepared to enter the Busoni International Piano Competition in 1972, which he won much to his own surprise. Not only were the jurors impressed, so was Deutsche Grammophon, the influential German record company.
"I was so naive. I didn't feel prepared," he said. "I didn't want to take any chances so I returned to Brazil." Nearly a decade later, he replaced Argerich in a concert with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam and was offered a contract by a manager who urged him to move to Europe, which he did.
He chose London because it is large and central but also because of the English "respect for individuality, democratic approach to ideas and incredible sense of humor." Cohen became a British citizen in 1981.
But building a career in Europe was not easy: "I almost gave up several times." The thought of an American career was short-circuited earlier when he was mugged by three men in New York: "I decided never to go to America again." Eventually his life turned around: His European career began to gain momentum and he was given a professorship at the Royal Academy of Music in London.
What changed his mind about the United States was his marriage to his second wife, an American. He also was besieged with invitations to play. He returned to New York in the 1996-97 season and received good reviews. He returned in successive seasons, got more good notices, and more invitations came across the door, followed by even more very good reviews in cities across the country, including debuts with the Philadelphia and Cleveland orchestras. His career is now in full bloom and looks forward to his move to the U.S.
Cohen said he still returns to Rio, in part because his mother and sisters live there. "I love going there. It is my town, my language and it is the only place when I can find myself. I have a bad sense of direction and get lost everywhere, even London."