ALBUM TITLE: Chopin
WORKS: Polonaise-fantasie; Nocturnes, Op. 27/2, Op. 55/2, Op. 62/1 & 2; Fantaisie in F minor, Op. 49; Ballade Nos 1 & 4; Berceuse Imogen Cooper (piano)
PERFORMER: Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10902
‘Imogen Cooper’s Chopin’ declares the title of this disc – perhaps an unusual way to describe a recital, but one that proves suitable. Imogen Cooper has never recorded Chopin before. It has taken decades for her to commit this perennial favourite of so many pianists to a CD, but the wait has been worth it.
The programme is a very personal selection of Nocturnes, Ballades and substantial ‘Fantasie’ works: Chopin at his most inward and serious. Atmospheres are intense, intimate, turbulent and dreamlike by turns; and Cooper injects every note with strength of personality. Nor are her interpretations predictable. Her pacing of the bigger pieces sometimes departs from what one might consider ‘tradition’. For instance, in the F minor Fantaisie other pianists often milk the stormy major-key moment in close-wrought thirds and sixths for its virtuosity. Cooper, in contrast, feels its songfulness – which makes perfect sense, since its contours suggest something straight out of the bel canto opera beloved by Chopin, if you don’t just gallop through it.
Cooper’s sense of authority becomes vast in the Polonaise-Fantasie and Ballades, yet is always tempered with tenderness in the tone quality and wisdom in structural understanding. The Nocturnes are pure-hearted and subtly coloured; and to conclude, the Berceuse is five minutes of hushed, filigree meditation.