Schubert: Imogen Cooper

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: 12 Deutsche Tanze, D790; Hungarian Melody in B minor, D817; Four Impromptus, D899; Allegretto in C minor, D915; Sonatas: in A minor, D784; in C, D840; in B flat, D960
PERFORMER: Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2158

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I’m hardly alone in not wanting an end to Imogen Cooper’s Schubert odyssey, recorded live at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, but there’s rather too much unfinished business in this latest instalment, involving one debatable cut and another indefensible one.

Cooper does a sublime job unfolding the barcarolle-like theme of the D840 Sonata’s Andante and stitching it delicately into the returning main subject. This C major Sonata can afford to end there, though I miss Schubert’s radical uncompleted Minuet and its searing G sharp minor trio.

Unbearable, though, are the missing eight bars that should lead to the exposition repeat of D960’s great Molto moderato. Without them we miss the one point at which the seismic rumbles split the earth open.

‘Omitting these would be like the amputation of a limb’ declared András Schiff; but Misha Donat’s booklet note says only that Cooper’s amputation stems from a ‘feeling that the outburst is insufficiently motivated’ – itself an insufficient reason, surely. (Those wanting the complete movement should try Kovacevich on EMI.)

Let’s rejoice at least that she suggests the hesitation in the slow movement’s dotted rhythms so artistically, that the momentum is as unfailing in the finale as it is in the noble and sentimental waltz-garlands of D790.

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Cooper’s sensitivity to the new light shed by remote keys is unfailing, and above all she tells the strange adventure of Schubert’s most tormented A minor Sonata with unerring judgment. For this account alone, the latest instalment is indispensable. David Nice