Le temps perdu…
Fauré: Thème & Variations, Op. 73; Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13; Les jeux d’eaux à la Villa d’Este; Reminiscences de Lucia di Lammermoor; Ravel: Valses nobles et sentimentales; Sonatine; Jeux d’eau; Respighi: Notturno
Imogen Cooper (piano)
Chandos CHAN 20235 83:21 mins
On this disc Dame Imogen visits memory lane, embracing her six years’ study at the Paris Conservatoire in the 1960s, followed by her lessons in Vienna with Alfred Brendel. Clearly revisiting the works she learnt then has been a wonderful experience, and we are privileged to be able to share it. In her early 70s, her technique remains supreme and for the most part her interpretations are entirely satisfying.
For me, her Liszt is the most impressive of all, in which she remembers Brendel’s championing of the composer as so much more than a flashy virtuoso. If I have a few quibbles about the French pieces, these stem only from her own very high standards. I would have liked a more trenchant, even aggressive start to Ravel’s Valses nobles – in the orchestral score, the third beats of the opening bars are not only stressed but also given staccato dots, producing a clear separation on the bar lines. His Jeux d’eau, while blessedly free of intrusive rubato, are a bit on the slow side: Ravel asks for quaver=144 and the recording by Jacques Février, one of her Conservatoire teachers and a close friend of Ravel, is still persuasive at quaver=138, but Cooper’s quaver=124 does take some of the sparkle off the fountain. Finally, the opening of Fauré’s Theme and Variations is perhaps a little tentative, where I feel he was rebelling against his reputation as ‘a composer of the shadows’. But as I say, there is much here to enjoy.