Friday, March 22, 2013

CCC 064 - Julian Cochran

English/Australian composer Julian Cochran is the subject of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. Cochran is a fairly young artist (b. 1974). He's a tremendously talented pianist, and his skill at the keyboard has shaped his compositional career.

Like Liszt, Cochran can improvise at the keyboard music of great technical complexity. And like Chopin, most of Cochran's catalog consists of works for solo piano, or ensembles featuring a piano.

Cochran's harmonies sound inspired by the music of the Post-Romanticists. The textures are often thick, with dissonances often resolving in step-wise motion. Many of Cochran's solo piano compositions are short, single-movement pieces, that build on forms of the past. He's written mazurkas, programmatic suites, and a set of Romanian Dances.

His Valse is fairly typical of Cochran's style. Although the form and melody are clear, this is not piano music for beginners.

Cochran may be steeped in the classical traditions of the past, but he's definitely a child of the late 20th Century. His English Folk Dance is a charming little work that was premiered in recorded form. As pop artists have done since the 1960's Cochran played every instrument in the ensemble and the tracks were mixed together. An usual way to orchestrate a work, but an effective one. Although the music is somewhat traditional in sound (as befitting a "folk" song), the decidedly non-traditional combination of instruments and sounds makes it anything but.

Artemis is a more conventionally orchestrated chamber work for violin, oboe, and piano. Cochran writes effectively for all three instruments, and manages to create a very open-sounding, yet atmospheric work.

For almost four decades, attempts have been made to integrate the electric guitar into a classical context. Results have mostly been unsuccessful, with the results mixing like oil and water. In Electric Guitar and Orchestra, Cochran effectively combines rock's iconic instrument with an orchestra. This elegiac work uses playing techniques developed by rock guitarists, but in an decidedly controlled and well, classical, manner. The result is music that is completely idiomatic to the instrument, fully integrated into the language of classical music.

Julian Cochran writes in a somewhat old-fashioned style, but his voice is original. And that originality gives his music integrity and substance. Superficially, his piano pieces may sound like Liszt, but if you listen carefully, it's clear they're not. Cochran's compositional style is distinctive and recognizable. The seamless, flowing nature of his music probably stems from his facility at improvisation. At the very least, it provides a spark of spontaneity.

It's a shame there's not more recorded material of Cochran's music. I'm curious to hear what his orchestral works sound like.

Recommended Recordings

Julian Cochran: Extracts from Romanian Dances, Animation Suite and Mazurkas


  1. I'm familiar with Cochran's works, they are extraordinary. He has written those beautiful suites as you write but also plenty of huge works along with them - I love most of all his piano sonatas and late preludes. Thank you for pointing me to these other works by Cochran..

    1. Irina:

      Thanks for your comment. The goal of this series is to provide a brief introduction to the composer, and provide some examples of their work. Since my primary source for those examples is YouTube, I'm often limited in what I can post. I haven't heard Cochran's piano sonatas, but I'll definitely be seeking them out!

  2. His works are amazing: very elegant,well structured,musically intelligent and full of ideas....His music makes people think and feel! his big works and small works are equally high developed ... Yes, I agree, he has his own style, recognizable and distinctive...and it is not the old-fashionable it is a simply grand maestro' style..

  3. Roger Stokes3:35 PM

    Nice article. Julian Cochran is a great, great composer.. I also really love Scriabin and Liszt. Listen to Cochran's late Preludes (Nos. 7 - 10) or Pegasus' Travels. Like the above post, I also unmistakably wouldn't call the music old fashioned whatsoever. Most of the other greats were commented about that way during their careers (I don't mean respected composers like Schoenberg who aren't performed much now, but the other composers who are truly loved now such as Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky). Rather, Julian Cochran has a masterful understanding of a broad and rich musical language and using that creates novel ideas in every work.