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Music and Men: The Life and Loves of Harriet Cohen [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Helen Fry
2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
Price: 20.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Sep 2008
It was during the turbulent decade of the First World War that the intensely gifted and beautiful Harriet Cohen established herself as a pianist. Enjoying huge success in her professional life, she was the first person outside the Soviet Union to play the music of the modern Soviet composers and was a huge success in America and throughout Europe. Her beauty and talent made her one of the most talked-about and photographed musicians of her day. Yet it was in her private life that the story of this extraordinarily talented young woman becomes one of the greatest love stories of all time. Her passionate love affair with the composer Sir Arnold Bax spanned more than thirty years. Their infatuation was played out against the backdrop of the First World War, and was peppered with betrayal, lust and tragedy. Their letters, published here for the first time, are among the most explicit of any written during that time and are staggering in their passion and poetry. Brilliant author Helen Fry tells for the first time the remarkable story of this forgotten woman. Music and Men tells of Harriet Cohen's friendships ? and relationships - with leading figures from every walk of life, from George Bernard Shaw to D.H. Lawrence and H.G. Wells, Sir Edward Elgar, Albert Einstein, Arnold Bennett, Vaughan Williams, Ramsey MacDonald and Eleanor Roosevelt. Offering an insight into the politics, arts and culture of the day, this incredible new biography tells the poignant story of a beautiful, possessive, flirtatious and determined musician.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press; First Edition edition (1 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0750948175
  • ISBN-13: 978-0750948173
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.6 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 604,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Official website:

Historian Helen Fry has written extensively on WWII with particular reference to the 10,000 Germans & Austrians who fought for Britain in the war. The most popular is her "Churchill's German Army", now available on Amazon as an e-book and the subject of a documentary by National Geographic Channel. Her WWII books continue to receive unprecedented ongoing media coverage in the national and international Press. Her most recent publication "The M Room: Secret Listeners who Bugged the Nazis" was a feature article on the BBC website, and Helen was interviewed with 2 surviving secret listeners on the BBC's One Show. The subject is a documentary for Channel 4 entitled "Spying on Hitler's Army".

Helen's book "Music & Men: the Life and Loves of Harriet Cohen" has been optioned for film with first draft Screenplay completed. It encapsulates the life of a stunningly beautiful and vivacious pianist whose impact and legacy on the music world was far-reaching in her day. It charts Harriet Cohen's colourful private life with a network of famous friends and lovers: literary, political and music figures, including Elgar, George Bernard Shaw, Vaughan Williams, Einstein, and HG Wells. Helen has been interviewed about it on Radio 4's Women's Hour (18 Sept 2008), and Radio 3 (28 Feb 2009).

Her WWII book "Inside Nuremberg Prison" tells the moving personal story of a veteran who is the last surviving witness to the Nazi interviews in Nuremberg at the end of WW2. This is the story of a man who, despite his own personal suffering at the hands of the Nazis, showed great dignity whilst in daily contact with the top Nazi leaders who were behind bars in the prison during the Nuremberg Trial.

Helen's book "From Dachau to D-Day" (2009) was given full-page feature articles in The Independent, and The Weekly News. Helen's highly acclaimed paper back book "Churchill's German Army" has received national and international coverage in the major newspapers. It was the subject of an 8-page special article with photographs in Military Illustrated (Dec 2008). The book was a sequel to "Jews in North Devon during the Second World War" (2005) which was awarded Devon Book of the Year and the subject of a documentary for BBC South-west.

Early in 2009 "Freuds' War" came out - a biography of the Freud line from Sigmund through his son Martin to grandson Walter. It drew on a substantial amount of previously unseen family archives, and provides a very human, fatherly portrayal of the founder of psychoanalysis and his family. Helen's book "German Schoolboy, British Commando" was published in early 2010, and was followed by "Denazification: Britain's Enemy Aliens, Nazi war Criminals & the Reconstruction of post-war Europe".

Helen Fry has branched out into historical fiction with James Hamilton under the pseudonym JH Schryer. Their debut novel Goodnight Vienna was published summer 2009, a love triangle of lust, love and betrayal set in Nazi-occupied Vienna in 1938. The sequel "Moonlight Over Denmark" came out in Spring 2010.
As JH Schryer, Helen and James have been sculptured by artist Jane McAdam Freud, daughter of Lucian Freud, in a piece inspired by the writing 'duo' called "Stone Speak". The first public showing was at the Freud Museum, London from 15 April-16 July 2010; then Los Angeles in autumn 2010, New York in January 2011 and Cracow, Poland in autumn 2011.

Helen is also the editor of some veteran WW2 autobiographies. She has worked with Herman Rothman on his autobiography "Hitler's Will", about the discovery of Hitler's last will and testament, sewn into the lining of the jacket of a POW who was arrested and brought into Fallingbostel camp at the end of the war.

Helen Fry received her Ph.D from the University of Exeter in 1996 and is an honorary research fellow in the Dept of Hebrew & Jewish Studies at University College London. She is a member of prestigious The Biographers' Club and The Society of Authors.

Product Description


Anyone who truly loves classical music will enjoy this book. --Pennant, May '09

About the Author

Helen Fry is an honorary research fellow in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College, London. She lectures frequently on Jewish topics. Her groundbreaking book The Kings Most Loyal Enemy Aliens: Germans who Fought for Britain in the Second World War was published by Sutton in 2007

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not really enough flesh on the bones 18 Jan 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
For me there was not enough flesh on the bones of this story to leave me with a strong image of what Harriet Cohen was really like, or for that matter her lovers/friends, nor of the way she and them lived their lives. There were too many quotes from letters, many of which were repetitive, and the story became somewhat tedious because of that I think.

The state of her health was also rather over-emphasised: she was at death's door and worsened (?) so many times it was rather hard to imagine how she obviously did survive whilst also managing (in the 1920s and 1930s) to travel throughout and give concerts in the UK, Europe, and America, receive treatments for her illness in Switzerland, on top of continuing various amorous liaisons!

There are some errors in the text, including a few references to a place of retreat called Glencolumcille in Scotland: I cannot find this in Scotland, but there is such a place in north-west Ireland near Donegal.

The story is interesting but I feel that in some aspects it could have been so much better: undoubtedly Harriet Cohen must have been an exceptionally attractive person in many ways who did a lot more than play a piano.

Harriet Cohen was a very accomplished piano player and it is a shame that her playing - with many recordings on 78rpm vinyls - has not been transferred to CD.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 25 Aug 2009
By Rebecca
This book is a missed opportunity. There is obviously an intriguing story to be told here, but this pedestrian account is heavy-going - and one longs time and time again that a fellow musician or artist had written this book, as there is almost no insight into how the passionate affair between Bax and Cohen affected their respective creativities, or, crucially, how it impacted on Bax's composition and Cohen's performance. After a while the repetitive nature of their letters sheds no new light on the relationship (you feel they are being quoted simply because they were there), and we are left at the end of a lengthy volume not really knowing much more about these two extraordinary people or the world they lived in. (There are also enough musical inaccuracies to suggest that the author wasn't entirely at home with her subject.) The definitive version of this story is yet to be told.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining but disappointing 12 Nov 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Harriet Cohen was a fascinating woman on many levels. This book goes some towards uncovering her life and personality, and the author has done a good job of putting together the correspondence between Bax and Cohen. However, it is error-strewn and poorly proof-read, and unfortunately hasn't succeeded in capturing the musical side of Cohen. Nevertheless, I enjoyed aspects of the book, particularly the many quotes from personal letters.
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