Kenneth Cooper, harpsichordist, pianist, musicologist, and conductor, is one of the world’s leading specialists in the music of the 18th century and one of America’s most exciting and versatile performers. Renowned for his improvisations and his expertise in ornamentation—long-lost 18th century arts—he has revived countless musical works, lending them extraordinary authenticity as well as great vitality. The possessor of a Ph.D. in musicology from Columbia University, Kenneth Cooper is on the faculty there as well as at Manhattan School of Music, where he is chair of the harpsichord department and director of the Baroque Aria Ensemble.
As music director of the Berkshire Bach Ensemble, Kenneth Cooper has made a tradition of the New Year’s performances of the Bach Brandenburg Concerti and has instituted a series of Concertofests in the style of Bach’s Collegium concerts atZimmermann’s Kaffeehaus. He has been codirector (with the late Henry Schuman) of the legendary Our Bach concerts and was featured on Live From Lincoln Center as soloist in Bach’s Brandenburg No. 5 with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Kenneth Cooper is heard regularly at the Temple of Dendur (Metropolitan Museum of Art) with Paula Robison, the Grand Canyon Music Festival, the Washington Square Park Concerts, the Sherman Chamber Ensemble, the Yale-Norfolk Summer Chamber Music Festival, and the Little Orchestra Society’s Vivaldi festivals at Alice Tully Hall. Most recently he has appeared with the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival and with Music at Menlo. He has been heard as soloist and guest conductor with the American Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Ohio Chamber Orchestra, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, and Mostly Mozart Festival.
Among Kenneth Cooper’s extensive musical writings is his 1984 Playbill article “Bach’s Call to Action,” in which he wrote: “How Bach regarded [his mentor] Buxtehude is how we might well recognize Bach: as a master, not a god; filled with delight, respect and admiration, not worship; and stimulated to a human response, not a mindless, mechanical or methodological one . . . . The great master would have desired us to be fired into action, not awed into obedience.”
Over the past four decades, Kenneth Cooper has made dozens of recordings and soundtracks, among them Bach’s gamba-harpsichord sonatas (CBS, with Yo-Yo Ma), Scarlatti sonatas for harpsichord (Vanguard) and Bach Brandenburg Concerti and Goldberg Variations (Berkshire Bach Society, South Egremont, Massachusetts). His spectacular versions of ragtime and other American delights may be heard on Silks and Rags (EMI) and Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot (Musical Heritage Society). He is also heard on Mother Goose and More (UNIFEM/Classic Raps), on the video game Louis Cat Orze, on the documentary Van Gogh Revisited, and on the soundtracks of Before Sunrise and Valmont.
Most recently, Kenneth Cooper has recorded on fortepiano the complete Bach Flute and Keyboard Sonatas with Susan Rotholz (Bridge), and the Six Bach Sonatas for Violin and Fortepiano with violinist Ani Kavafian (Helicon).