Imogen Cooper

Piano Sonata in A, Op.101
Piano Sonata in A minor, K310
Piano Sonata No.2
Miroirs [Noctuelles; Oiseaux tristes; Une barque sur l’océan; Alborada del gracioso; La vallée des cloches]

Imogen Cooper (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth A. Clifford

Reviewed: 27 February, 2007
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Imogen Cooper took to the platform of the Wigmore Hall to tackle a wide-ranging collection of works. Right from the opening chord of Beethoven’s A major Sonata, it was clear we were in for something quite special. Cooper breaths life into each and every phrase giving music that is often over-studied and contrived a fresh and vivacious perspective. I can’t think of a pianist who communicates so honestly and freely the complexities of Beethoven’s language – this was an astonishing performance by a pianist of supreme sophistication and musicality.

In Mozart’s A minor Sonata, again everything was judged to perfection. Cooper possesses the most wonderful imagination and knows precisely how to lure you into her majestic world of contrast and balance between masculine and feminine; wisdom and innocence; joy and sorrow; vulnerability and absolute security. While this wasn’t as lucid a performance (technically speaking) as the Beethoven had been, any inaccuracies were merely incidental in the big picture.

We returned after the interval for Cooper’s take on Michael Tippett’s Sonata No.2. Here she was out of her comfort zone and though everything was presented tastefully, the interpretation lacked the assurance and high level of command that she had asserted in the recital’s first half. This work calls for a greater dynamic range – Cooper has a touch for pianissimo that most musicians can only dream of, but the shocking fortissimo entries and ferocious octave passages required greater relentlessness and sense of urgency.

Ravel’s series of pieces entitled Miroirs was completed in 1905 and marked a shift in the composer’s harmonic development. Each piece was dedicated to a different member of a group known as “Les Apaches” of which Ravel himself was a member. His intention was to reveal the visual images and ambiences evoked when each of the dedicatees would look in the mirror.

Cooper’s elegance, charm, warmth and sensitivity had the Hall’s capacity audience transfixed. She illuminates the music’s meaning so that there can be no doubt about what it seeks to communicate. Cooper has the most tantalising touch and an especially sensitive pedal technique – at times the ear questions whether such an array of sound can possibly come from one instrument.

The only source of irritation throughout the evening was though the instrument itself; there were noticeable imperfections. A couple of the piano’s duff notes were all too prominent, particularly in the Ravel, and which will hopefully be attended to!

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