Imogen Cooper – Schubert

Piano Sonata in A minor, D845
Drei Klavierstücke, D946
Ecossaises, D781
Piano Sonata in D, D850

Imogen Cooper (piano)

Reviewed by: Kenneth Carter

Reviewed: 25 November, 2008
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Imogen CooperImogen Cooper is a distinguished – and distinctive – pianist, excelling in cool, limpid and sensitive Mozart. This recital was the first of two in which she is exploring Schubert’s late works for piano.

Throughout she displayed a clean and clear technique that made short work of difficulties. Nimble, dextrous fingers ensured that even the fastest passages had crisp, pointed delineation and an active flow. Her cool phrasing was impeccable and climaxes were clear-headed with a fine sense of direction. She is conscious, too, that the momentum and shape of these pieces derive from an emotional dynamic driving Schubert’s inspiration, creativity and composing process.

The Ecossaises had the genial lyricism of a still-young man in unbuttoned mood, out in the open air, enjoying the sunshine and making merry in good company. The softer lyricism of the slow sections was more personal, as if Schubert were taking stock of himself in repose, at peace with himself. There was also an ardent, impassioned lyricism, where the notes sped in a singing flurry, like brightly-coloured autumn leaves swirling in gusts of sunlit wind.

Elsewhere, passages of tormented lyricism, often furious, hurtling towards some dreaded destination found Cooper’s sensitivity beyond doubt. However, she is by no means hefty. Schubert’s boots – the sense of him clumping his feet on the floor – were missing: the climaxes’ great drives had no power and Cooper’s arms strained as she worked to give weight to the heavy turmoil of phrases that she perceived thus. Quieter moments had appeal and flow, but lacked mundane, human substance.

Overall, the evening amounted to a transcription of Schubert’s music – a ‘transcription’ that ideally suited Imogen Cooper’s nimble, immaculate fingers but left Schubert’s sturdy, corporeal presence behind.

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