Schubert Live: Volume 2

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Schubert
LABELS: Avie
WORKS: Piano Music 1823-28: Piano Sonata in C minor, D958 & G, D894; 6 Moments Musicaux, D780; 16 Deutsche Tänze, D783; 4 Impromptus, D935
PERFORMER: Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2157

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Three cheers for Avie, which is once again on hand to remind us why Imogen Cooper is second to none in Schubert. Her view stresses not so much the skull beneath the skin, which is more Sviatoslav Richter’s territory, as the supernatural world behind the phenomenal one.

The sound she so carefully makes is a glorious companion throughout, casting radiance on the first two Moments musicaux, the spellbinding last of the four impromptus, and even a rare moment of transcendence in the otherwise straightforward if well sprung German Dances

It depends what you want from the late sonatas. Richter’s heavenly length is hard to leave behind in the first movement of the G major work. His exposition, including the repeat that Cooper, like most Brendel followers, doesn’t give us, runs eight minutes longer than the one on the present disc, so clearly we’re talking parallel universes here.

But Cooper finds plenty of serene pathos here, even if the ground doesn’t open in what should surely be a more violent minor-key eruption in the development. And she rallies in an even more thoughtful and, when needed, withdrawn Andante, a heavenly dream of a scherzo trio, and a perfect touch to conclude a slightly well behaved finale.

If the sudden abysses that open up in Schubert’s music are limited, she finds her own independent way with the opening of the C minor Sonata, strong and surprisingly buoyant with lovely staccatos and later magical enharmonic transformations.

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The tour de force of the final tarantella, following on the heels of the elusive minuet, never palls in its mercurial variety, and the slip into B major is a glimpse into a strange new world, a little touch of heaven. Since Cooper has only just given her latest Schubert recital at the Queen Elizabeth Hall – where the sound engineers have found an ideal sound for a live event here – I trust there will be more to come. David Nice