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James Madison Cox joined the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra as Principal Horn in 1990 and received his twenty-five-year pin from Maestro Zubin Mehta onstage at a concert in July 2015, during which James spoke to the public about the role of family and community in maintaining the performing arts in Israel.
James has been praised frequently in media for his performances. The New York Times raved, “James Madison Cox, the principal horn player, was heroic throughout,” of a 2011 Hall performance by Maestro Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony. In 2014, the Chicago Classical Review praised his “terrific playing,” the Boston Musical Intelligencer wrote that “James Madison Cox negotiated Bruckner’s difficult and mercilessly exposed French Horn parts with accuracy and brilliance,” revered British critic Bernard Jacobson reported in Seen and Heard International that James “offered wonderfully poetic and assured horn solos,” The Jerusalem Post praised his “technical mastery,” and classicalsource.com said his solos were “gorgeous.” In 2011, the Seattle Times wrote that “James Madison Cox played with much poetry,” and in 2015, the San Francisco Examiner, wrote that when it came to James’ performance, “the execution was stunning.”
James has served as Principal Horn with L’Orchestre National de France in Paris at the request of Maestro Kurt Masur for the 2004-05 season, which included a Hans Werner Henze premiere, and James performed as Principal Horn with the Brussels Opera under Sir Antonio Pappano 1998-2002, both concurrent with his full-time position with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. James gave the first IPO performance of the Strauss Horn Concerto No. 1 with Maestro Mehta in 1999, a work they took on tour abroad in 2001, and James has been a soloist in Mozart with Maestro Mehta on several occasions. He has performed in chamber music series in London and Brussels and is a teacher with three former students among his IPO colleagues.
In earlier years, James also performed as Principal Horn with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis, and with L’Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte Carlo during the tenures of Maestros James DePriest and Lawrence Foster. He appeared as guest soloist in horn concertos with orchestras in Europe and the US and made his Israel Philharmonic solo debut in 1992. His chamber music partners in Israel have included Frederic Chaslin, Orli Shaham, and Gil Shaham.
James was born in 1956 and grew up in Chicago. In 1970 he was encouraged to pursue a career as a hornist by Hamburg NDR conductor Maestro Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt. Though he learned to play mainly from his professional experience in the U.K. and Europe, his early training included three years of study with James Chambers as a scholarship recipient at the Juilliard School, and four years performing as a substitute with the New York Philharmonic under the guidance of his friend and teacher, the late Jerome Ashby. He later studied in Chicago with Arnold Jacobs and in London with Nicholas Busch.
He lives in Tel Aviv with his wife, Tal, and daughter, Na’ama.