ALBUM TITLE: Imogen Cooper: Schumann
WORKS: Abegg Variations; Davidsbündlertänze; Novelettes Op. 21 Nos 2 & 8; Geisternähe
PERFORMER: Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 10874
The state of British pianism (albeit an odious and ultimately irrelevant concept) has never, surely, been more richly served than it is today. But it’s not without its miscarriages of justice. Yes, for many years now, Imogen Cooper has reaped glowing reviews and the profound admiration of her colleagues, but have we, as a nation, really awakened to the fact that we have here not only a very distinguished but a truly great pianist? Why is she not ‘damed’? A CBE is not sufficient honour. True, she’s a woman, and women pianists are still short-changed, but greatness, human or musical, transcends gender.
Pianistically alone, Cooper commands a dynamic and colouristic range beyond the reach of most pianists. She understands that musical, like verbal, speech acquires eloquence and continuity through the close, asymmetrical juxtaposition of extreme but varied contrasts – as in any polysyllabic word. Nowhere is this truer than in Schumann, whose own juxtaposition of emotional-psychological extremes requires a maximum of characterisation with a minimum of evidence – the art that conceals art.
Cooper’s gifts in this department are unmistakable even before she reaches the end of the first, brief piece in the Davidsbündlertänze. And as she begins, so she continues. Every piece in this recital is a study in portraiture worthy of Schumann’s beloved ETA Hoffmann. Variety and organic momentum (structure, in short, in a sea of diversity) go hand in hand. Jeremy Siepmann