Leading US harpsichordist dies, 79

Leading US harpsichordist dies, 79


norman lebrecht

March 14, 2021

We have been informed of the death of Kenneth Cooper, the eminent harpsichordist and musicologist.

Among his many recordings are Bach suites with Yo Yo Ma on Sony and Bach flute sonatas with  Susan Rotholz on Bridge. He was music director of the Berkshire Bach Ensemble. He was not averse to playing piano, either.


  • drummerman says:

    So VERY sorry to read this. I worked with Ken many, many times in the ’90s, in concerts at Alice Tully Hall. A wonderful artist, a wonderful person. He was married to soprano Josephine Mongiardo. RIP.

  • Michael Kaykov says:

    I really enjoyed taking his performance class as part of the DMA program at MSM… he possessed an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge.

  • Orin O'Brien says:

    What a tragic loss, especially for his colleagues and students at Manhattan School of Music. Many times we spoke together at MSM, waiting to teach: he always encouraged young bassists and gave them a lot to play in his classes where they learned the details of Baroque style…I send my deepest condolences to his family. He was admired and appreciated by many musicians: I am grateful that I played with him once at a memorial concert for Lillian Fuchs.

  • Derek Chiu says:

    I have the utmost respect for Dr. Cooper. He was an amazing mentor and an inspiring figure. I learned so much from his classes at MSM. He also coached me and my violist after graduating. He was one of the most knowledgeable musicians I have ever met. Thank you Dr. Cooper!

  • Nathan Qi says:

    I remember working with him on a weekly basis during my junior year at Manhattan School of Music! He was such an amazing person and teacher. A warm, kind man with a strong passion for Baroque Music.

  • Kenny and I performed my first composition, Legend for trumpet and piano, at the High School of Music & Art in 1958. We were both students in Mark Lawner’s composition class.

  • Jason Thomas says:

    He had a heart of pure gold. He was always encouraging and supportive. A great human being. Rest well Dr. Cooper.

  • S. Sperber says:

    What a loss! Our heart goes out to the family!

  • Paul Gabler, The Netherlands says:

    So sad to hear this news

  • Angela Szpak says:

    What an incredible loss! I studied and sang with him for years. Thank you Dr. Cooper for all that you taught us.

  • Chris Mathers says:

    As a Masters candidate at Manhattan School of Music, I made certain to always schedule the Baroque Orchestra class with Dr. Cooper. This was one of the most valuable experiences I took away from my two years at the school.

    Working with Ken Cooper meant learning how to play bass on continuo parts in a style compatible with performance practices of the baroque era while also being encouraged to contribute ones own expressivity and invention to the piece.

    It was my pleasure to have Dr. Cooper’s help preparing for my graduate recital, a semester’s worth of information packed into a single session. I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Cooper on a “paid gig” years after leaving school, where once again, I was reminded how a true professional handles themself on the job, and what a true master of his craft Ken was.

  • Harry Graham says:

    Ken and I were very good friends at the High School of Music and Art. I am very, very much saddened to learn of his death. My heart goes out to his family. As it is said, “May his memory be a blessing.” It is.

  • Samuel Rhodes says:

    I am heartbroken by the news of Kenneth Cooper’s passing. We were friends and colleagues from our days at the High School of Music and Art. We had a group then with a very talented clarinetist, Andrew Schenck we played quite a number of concerts together featuring the Mozart “Kegelstadt” Trio K. 498. Andrew, who went into a successful conducting career later on, also left us much too soon. Ken’s father was a beloved English professor at Music and Art and in his class, I was introduced to the complexities of Hamlet for the first time. Ken and I played several recitals together, one of them was at Columbia University where he was a student.
    He was always so warm and welcoming when we met in the halls of MSM. I always enjoyed his knowledge and enthusiasm and will miss that very much. I send my condolences to his wife, Josephine and to his sister, Constance, whom I knew from our Music and Art days.

  • Nina Tichman says:

    I am devastated by this loss. Ken was my keyboard harmony teacher at Columbia, that was the beginning of a deep
    friendship that continued undiminished for over 50 years. A great musician, wonderful teacher, inspirational and supportive. The world is much poorer without him.

  • James Buswell says:

    He was a person who never took himself or anyone else too seriously! His creativity was off the charts. And everything that he played danced.
    Deepest condolences to Josephine and may the memory of Ken’s fabulous art and personal charm live on always.
    Jamie Buswell

  • Joan says:

    I was shocked and so saddened hearing about Ken. Early in my years in New York I was lucky to be part of a group of musicians instrumental and vocal and headed by a wonderful musician Tomas Dunn. We performed a great deal of early music in concert and some contemporary. Ken was almost exclusively on the harpsichord. What a delight he was. And what an incredible musical experience we all had. A great deal of hard work and good company, not the least of it was Ken’s knowledge, talent and always positive outlook on performing this music. I was delighted that he was on the faculty when I arrived at MSM. I adored his performances at school. I was particularly tickled when he appeared with his class dressed in “period costume” all perfect except the shoes. What a dear fellow. I haven’t seem much of him in the past few years, and of course now I am sorry that I didn’t make the effort to keep in closer touch. Always with a smile and a pertinent comment. Farewell Ken, thank you for sharing your knowledge and pleasure in making this music come to life. You are missed.

  • Lana Cable says:

    Heartbreaking news about Kenneth Cooper, whose extraordinary generosity of mind and talent were graced by a wonderful sense of humor. My acquaintance with him is only virtual, stemming from a very recent email exchange that originated from a case of mistaken identity. But his warmth and kindness toward me, a perfect stranger, proved his greatness as a gifted musician, teacher, scholar and humanitarian. I feel honored to have “met” him: I now listen to his music with even greater appreciation. My deepest condolences go out to his family, and to the many talented people who have known and worked with him as well as loved him.