MUSIC & MEN: THE LIFE & LOVES OF HARRIET COHEN
Albert Einstein called her ‘The Beloved Piano-Witch’. Many famous men were besotted by her.
Internationally acclaimed concert pianist Harriet Cohen was both beautiful and talented and became a household name in the 1920s and 30s.
At the heart of this first biography is an epic love story between Harriet and the only man she ever truly loved – composer and married man Arnold Bax.
Based on previously unpublished love letters between them, the book charts their unquenchable relationship which set them on a turbulent forty-year path of love, lust and betrayal. The passion and poetry in their letters are arguably the most eloquent and best of the last century.
They shared something far deeper than most lovers, something that touched the creative core of their souls – music. Harriet became the inspiration and mouthpiece for many of Bax’s new works, some of which were dedicated to her and which she premiered in concert halls in Britain and abroad. Their relationship seemed invincible and indestructible.
This indomitable woman of courage, who overcame a tragic miscarriage and ten-year life-threatening struggle against TB, attracted many famous public figures throughout her life.
She was a forceful and politically-minded artiste who once refused to break an engagement at Mussolini’s bidding. Proud of her Jewishness and Englishness, always striking in appearance and elegant in dress, she was a personality with great wit and a conversationalist whose friends included George Bernard Shaw; D.H. Lawrence, Arnold Bennett and HG Wells.
Bax dedicated many pieces of music to her, most famously The Maiden With the Daffodil.
Their insatiable love led to Bax’s decision to leave his wife and children in 1918, but they could never live together because Bax’s wife refused a divorce. Neither could their relationship be recognised publicly because of the social climate of their generation. It is likely that the long-standing affair denied her a ‘Dame’.
Bax’s wife Elsa died in September 1947, something which Harriet did not discover until the will was published nine months later. She believed that now Bax would marry her, but he harboured a dark secret. His ensuing confession was to have devastating consequences…
"You steal into my imagination so frequently and with so much dance and light, setting many vital rhythms tripping and hammering." - Arnold Bax