WORKS: Piano Concertos: No. 18 in B flat, K456; No. 22 in E flat, K482
PERFORMER: Northern Sinfonia/ Imogen Cooper (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: AV 2200
Imogen Cooper’s affinity with Mozart was unequivocally established at the very outset of her career, when she won the London Mozart Competition in her early 20s. Alfred Brendel, no less, chose her as his partner for the Double Concerto in his complete concerto cycle for Philips. Mozart has been at the centre of her musical life for as long as she can remember, but as with all great artists their relationship has developed with experience. Today, as this and other releases make wonderfully clear, she is among the Mozartian elect.
No masterworks are more subtly multifaceted than Mozart’s Concertos, being at once symphonic, operatic, virtuosic, intimate, rhetorical and deeply imbued with the spirit of chamber music. Cooper is alert to every dimension, transcending technique in a synthesis of human emotion, psychological acumen and dramaturgical insight. Her sense of balance is unerring, be it in solo work or in conversation with the orchestra (her dialogues with the winds being particularly ravishing).
Nothing is exaggerated, nothing inhibited. Scarcely a bar passes that is not expressive in its impulse (her rubato, colouration and rhythmic profiling are of the highest order) yet the organic development, dramatic pacing and thematic interrelationships are truly symphonic in their breadth and overall cohesion.
There are pianists who play the ‘big’ Mozart, like K482, as though it were Beethoven (which it certainly anticipates). With Cooper you have the undiluted essence of Mozart through and through – unique, universal and, in most cases, ultimately Utopian. Long may this series continue. Jeremy Siepmann