The lofty reputation of the violin teacher Eta Cohen rested on a disarmingly simple way of making her pupils learn to feel comfortable with the instrument. When she took up the violin, she was told: “This is how you hold it. This is how you hold the bow. Now, play that.” Her view, first exemplified in The Eta Cohen Violin Method in 1941, was to cover one idea at a time, breaking down difficult tasks and reconstructing them in easy stages.
Cohen, the daughter of Jewish immigrants who had fled Lithuania, played works by Bach and Mendelssohn at the age of 14. Three years later, she began teaching children, determined that they should have more encouragement than she had.
Her book, which eventually ran to four volumes and which was translated into dozens of other languages, ran and ran. Its sixth edition, which was published by Novello last year, contained a CD of backing tracks.
She organised her students into the Eta Cohen Orchestra, and although she was opposed to the idea of master classes she did hold teach-ins, such as one held at London’s Purcell Room in 1975, attended by some 300 young violinists keen to see her demonstrate her methods.
One of Cohen’s most notable students, James Murphy, recognising that she was both comprehensive and accessible, described her as the “Delia Smith of violin methods”.
Eta Cohen, who was born on July 13, 1916, died on November 20, 2012, aged 96.