Wigmore Hall Live: Imogen Cooper

0 of 5 stars

Sonata in A, Op.101
Sonata in A minor, K310
Miroirs [Noctuelles; Oiseaux tristes; Une barque sur l’océan; Alborada del gracioso; La vallée des cloches]
Préludes, Book II – La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune

Imogen Cooper (piano)

Recorded on 27 February 2007 in Wigmore Hall, London

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: September 2007
Duration: 78 minutes

What immediately impresses is the recorded sound – this is just like being present in the Wigmore Hall: and that surely is what any good recording engineer (here it is Victoria Oswald) strives for.

Blessed with excellent sonics, if not always the always the most-pristine piano-action, Imogen Cooper begins with an absorbing performance of the Beethoven in which variegation of touch and dynamics is exemplary, the music keenly ‘felt’ and a sense of improvised structure compelling the music and the listener forward. The are more-gruff accounts around but few that beguile without over-cosseting Beethoven’s profound ‘search’; the third movement ‘Langsam und sehnsuchtvoll’ is especially spiritual and the finale is highly spirited while always being musically poised.

The darker side of Mozart’s A minor Sonata is not stressed; rather, at a moderate tempo, Cooper underlines the stark nature of the music and contrasts this with comforting asides. A bit too comfortable, though, for all the refined playing on offer, yet the cumulative intensity is impressive and sustains the observance of both of the movement’s repeats. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cooper’s poetic sensibility comes into its own in the Andante cantabile, beautifully flowing and expressed, and with what tonal resource she introduces the development. The finale scurries mysteriously but with no sacrifice of shapeliness.

Ravel’s cycle, Miroirs, isn’t often heard complete, ‘Alborada del gracioso’ usually picked out for separate attention, this and ‘Une Barque sur l’océan’ the best-known pieces partly because of Ravel’s own (typically miraculous) orchestrations. Imogen Cooper brings this music to life with a remarkable degree of fantasy and light-and-shade that is compelling, full of fantasy (while being attentive to Ravel’s watchmaker’s notation) and seduces the listener into rapt concentration and five imaginary worlds full of suggestion and colour. Best to listen than to read about it!

A shame that Tippett’s Second Sonata has been jettisoned (no room!) – although the Debussy encore is another Impressionistic ‘trip’ if quite different to Ravel’s quintet – but Kenneth Clifford, reviewing this recital for Classical Source, felt this to be the least distinguished part of an otherwise-memorable concert. Indeed, I find myself agreeing with many of his observations, so if you need a second opinion…!

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