This is the eagerly awaited second volume in the new collaboration between Chandos and Imogen Cooper. In this series, she brings her virtuosity and poetic touch to the repertoire of one of the central German romantic composers. Known as a Schubert expert, she has recently turned to Schumann in an equally successful way, which she proved in her much-lauded first volume (CHAN 10755). The Snape Maltings concert hall and Nicholas Marston's detailed notes are respectively 'an excellent complement' (musicweb-international.com) and 'an added bonus' (Gramophone) to the series.
This album is an implicit dialog between the two Schumanns, the presence of words sensed at every point: from the Lied-like melody in the love duet that is Robert's 'Romanze' to the Humoreske, an imaginary song inspired by Clara. Even the Sonata was dedicated to Clara, 'by Eusebius and Florestan' who represent the dual poetic sides of Schumann's nature. This imaginary world was the frame for Clara's 'Scène fantastique' renamed 'Doppelgänger Chorus' in the long, yet often passionately hopeless, correspondence which Clara and Robert carried on during their courtship.
Robert Schumann's Sonata No. 1 is also one of the most emblematic pieces in the romantic repertoire for piano, in which, as Imogen Cooper explains, 'a much darker side of Schumann is at work, one that is frenetically driven, as if with no inner parameters to guide him'. She adds: 'Great energy, emotional and physical, is needed from the performer, and great willingness from the listener, who must open him- or herself to this somewhat rollercoaster experience, without defences.'
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“Cooper asserts her stylistic credentials right at the start of the disc in Robert's Humoreske, playing with a warm, golden tone and fluidly finding that distinction between the extrovert and introvert traits that were key to Schumann's musical personality – identified by him as the outgoing Florestan and the musing Eusebius who inspired his creativity.
Cooper's articulation is clearly defined but also effectively varied in touch and colour, her phrasing in the more meditative music is mellifluous, a quality that beautifully spills over into the F sharp major Romanze and also into the Aria that forms the second movement of the F sharp minor Sonata.
Here, too, in the sonata's other movements there is no absence of the necessary sinew and ardour.”
Geoffrey Norris, Saturday Telegraph Review
“Fresh and inspiring, her playing eschews any vestige of sentiment around the love song element of the programme – this was, ultimately, a tragic tale. There's a real joie de vivre about the vigour of the Humoresque's Florestanian episodes, even while Eusebius, the introvert and poet, seems ever present just beneath the surface. These two characters, Schumann's alter-egos, were after all two sides of the same individual. A rich, empathetic and beautifully calibrated recital.”
Jessica Duchen, BBC Music
“…It would be impossible, I suggest, to imagine a finer or more perceptive performance of the Humoresque than this: Imogen Cooper’s technique is fully up to Schumann's occasionally difficult demands, and her part-playing in this work especially reveals the composer's growing fascination with Bach's contrapuntal writing. But perhaps it is her poetical playing, so full of the most subtle and touching meaning, that will initially catch the listener’s attention, for it is all placed at the service of the overall conception of this great work: as just one example out of many, her octave playing in the Intermezzo section during the third part of the work is so effortless and expressive. If one might query the dynamic contrasts which almost immediately follow, they arise so spontaneously and so full of nuance that one is borne along on this outstanding artist's re-creation of the music. Her account of the fascinating F sharp major Romanze is both graceful and finely drawn, with genuine variation of colour where appropriate.”
Robert Mathhew-Walker, International Record Review
“Stunning, from all angles”
International Piano, November 2015