Imogen Cooper - power and serenity

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Imogen Cooper - power and serenity

Post by Ricordanza » Sat Nov 10, 2018 4:07 pm

It’s been a turbulent week. Many of us are still reeling from the shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history. A bitter and divisive election campaign—dominated by negative attack ads--ended on Tuesday, resulting in a divided Congress. The next day, Attorney General Sessions was fired and the speculation began about whether his temporary replacement would carry out the President’s wish to halt the Mueller investigation. And then, on Thursday morning, we woke to the news of yet another mass shooting, this time at a country music club in California.

It was time for a little relief from reality. No, I’m not talking about pharmaceutical relief. For me, there’s a different and better type of “high.” When great music is performed by fully engaged and committed musicians, it’s as if I have been transported to another realm. It’s still reality, but it’s different from and on a higher plane than everyday concerns and anxieties.

I’ve heard the English pianist Imogen Cooper twice before in recital, so on Thursday evening, November 8, I knew I could look forward to a well-played and stimulating program. But would I be able to escape the outside world for a while? Perhaps an unfair burden to place on this musician, but for the most part, the answer was yes.

The evening began with Haydn’s Piano Sonata in C Major, Hob. XVI:50. Everyone knows Haydn’s “Surprise” Symphony, where an unexpected, loud chord wakes up the audience (and perhaps the orchestra musicians). Haydn’s piano music abounds with surprises, but of a much more subtle variety. In the first movement, for example, Haydn will begin a phrase but then startle us when he suddenly stops…and then continues in a slightly different direction. There are also some harmonic surprises in this relatively lengthy first movement, as well as in the serene Adagio. The concluding Allegro Molto is a lively dance that ends sooner than I would have liked.

Cooper’s performance was just right. She didn’t need a bold marker to underline those surprises; just a nuanced emphasis here and there when needed. Generally, she is the picture of restraint while seated at the keyboard. One exception was one of these sudden stops in the first movement (actually two exceptions because the phrase is repeated). She lifted her left hand in the air, looked up to the right, and then gently brought her hand back to the keyboard. It sounds affected as I describe it, but since her overall demeanor is so reserved, this audience member (and I suspect others) could not find fault with this gesture.

Her next piece, Darknesse Visible, by the contemporary British composer Thomas Adès, is described in the program notes by the composer as an “explosion” of John Dowland’s 1610 lute song, In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell. The piece is made up of a series of trills high in the right hand (sometimes very high), with the left hand striking some notes (which the composer assures us are the same notes found in the original ancient song) at odd intervals and registers on the keyboard. Eventually, the piece calms down to a soft and gentle conclusion. There was no opportunity to assess audience reaction (I would have offered polite but unenthusiastic applause) because Cooper proceeded without interruption to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in A-flat Major, Op. 110.

This was the perfect combination--one of the greatest masterpieces of the piano literature and one of the finest performances I have heard of this work. I can only describe her approach as offering the best of both power and serenity. A good proportion of the audience gave her a standing ovation for this performance.

Following intermission, Ms. Cooper offered Schubert’s late work, the Sonata in C Minor, D. 958. It is one of the three sonatas Schubert wrote just a couple of months before his untimely death at age 31. The piece has its lyrical moments (of course, it’s Schubert, the composer of hundreds of songs in his short life), but this work is notable for its dramatic intensity, particularly in the first movement. Cooper was in full command throughout the performance, but for this listener, it wasn’t quite as compelling as the Beethoven sonata.

An encore by Schubert closed the program, and then (unfortunately), back to reality.

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Re: Imogen Cooper - power and serenity

Post by Rach3 » Sun Nov 11, 2018 2:47 pm

Many thanks, Ricordanza ! Cooper is a pianist I follow.As you know, student of Alfred Brendel, and from what I can tell, he also thought very highly of her as evidenced by the fact I have an lp of them together doing the Mozart 2-Piano Concerto , K.365 , with Neville Marriner,St.Martin in the Fields.

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Re: Imogen Cooper - power and serenity

Post by arepo » Tue Nov 13, 2018 11:44 am


Another superb review of the Angela Cooper's wonderful recital. Sorry I missed seeing you there.

She remains, in my view, one of the best artists out there and doesn't get the recognition she richly deserves. The Haydn was delicious, the Beethoven outstanding and the Schubert the finest performance of this masterpiece I've ever heard, either live or on disc. Overall, a very gratifying evening, indeed.

Thanks again for your summary..

Best regards,


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