The versatile American harpsichordist, pianist, conductor, musicologist, and pedagogue, Kenneth Cooper, was trained at the at New York’s High School of Music and Art. Afterwards he studied harpsichord with Sylvia Marlowe at the Mannes College of Music from 1960 to 1963) and pursued his education with Lang, Moore, and Luening at Columbia University (BA., 1962; MA Graduate Faculties, 1964; Ph.D. Graduate Faculties, 1971).
In 1965 Kenneth Cooper made his debut as a harpsichordist at London’s Wigmore Hall. His USA debut followed in 1973 at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. In subsequent years, he toured widely in the USA and abroad. He 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. His comprehensive repertory embraces works from the early keyboard era to the avant-garde. He gave premiere performances works by George Flynn. Daniel Paget, Seymour Barab, Noel Lee. Ferruccio Busoni, Paul Ben-Haim, Ernst Krenek, etc., as well as dozens of modern day revivals.
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 at Zimmermann’s Kaffeehaus. He has been co-director (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, and the The Adams Chronicles Channel 13.
Kenneth Cooper has had numerous guest appearances and festivals. He 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 Orchestra, Ohio Chamber Orchestra, Northwest Chamber Orchestra, and Mostly Mozart Festival.
Kenneth Cooper taught at Barnard College from 1965 (Baker) or 1967 (Who’s) to 1971, and was Adjucant Assistan Professor at the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York from 1971 to 1973. Then he served as professor of harpsichord and director of Collegium at the Mannes College of Music from 1975 to 1985; visiting specialist in performance practice at Montclair State College in New Jersey from 1977 to 1992; artist-in-residence at Columbia University from 1983; and director of Graduate Seminars in Baroque practice and conductor of the Baroque Orchestra (Baroque Aria Ensemble) at the Manhattan School of Music from 1984. He has also given Graduate Workshops in Performance Practice at the Peabody Conservatory of Music from 1987, and has had many residencies and guest appearances and lectures.
Over the past four decades, Kenneth Cooper has made dozens of recordings and soundtracks, among them: Bach Harpsichord Music Vol 1 (Musical Heritage Society); Händel: Theatre and Outdoor Musick; Handel/Scarlatti: Cantatas with Judith Blegen; Bach: Gamba-Harpsichord Sonatas with Yo-Yo Ma (CBS); Bach/Händel: Flute-Harpsichord Sonatas with Paula Robison; Scarlatti: Sonatas for harpsichord Volumes 1 and 2 (Vanguard): Bach Brandenburg Concerti and Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) (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, he 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).
Publications: Monteverdi: Tirsi e Clori; Three Centuries of Music in Score. Contributor To: Current Musicology; Musical Quarterly; Stagebill; Opus; High Fidelity; MGG; Vanguard. 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.”