Schumann • Brahms
There are times when a composer and a performer seem so closely matched that they appear to become one, inseparably united in the music. Throughout this superlative recital, Imogen Cooper’s artistic sensibility – highly personal, interpretatively penetrating, yet never didactic – reflects a sympathy with the music so intimate and compelling that it seems for the most part to transcend the very concept of interpretation.
Confronting the challenges of what she aptly calls ‘organised chaos’, Cooper achieves a synthesis in which order tempers chaos while never sanitising Schumann’s wilder side (witness the exemplary balance and excitement of ‘In der Nacht’ from Fantasiestücke Op. 12, and No. 7, ‘Sehr rasch’, from Kreisleriana). The result focuses equally on the richness, range and daring of Schumann’s imagination, and on his stunning craftsmanship as a composer. Tonally lustrous and diverse, rhythmically buoyant and illuminating, her playing lifts the music off the page in an enthralling tour of a genius’s heart and mind.
Yet, for me, the highpoint of this marvellous release is her playing of the Brahms transcription – one of the neglected jewels of the piano repertoire. Schumann defies perfection; Brahms enables, but is too seldom accorded it. Cooper, here, comes close. Forget the old canard that Brahms is ‘thick’. The sound here is positively luminous