Think Imogen Cooper and, yes, you can’t help thinking of her musical friends worldwide, too. For this tirelessly itinerant pianist is every bit as much a chamber musician as a soloist. She seldom seems to be alone, even (indeed, especially) when communing with the spirit of Mozart or Schubert. This treasure-chest of performances starts with a remarkable, brand-new release of Mozart’s K595 Piano Concerto made by Cooper with the Australian Chamber Orchestra live in 2000. There’s inquisitive, intimate string playing, woodwind solos to die for; and, at the heart of it all, Cooper’s own winsome, whimsical and beautifully imagined playing, ending in an Allegro finale of rare serenity. And then back to 1977, just six years after Cooper had been studying with Alfred Brendel in Vienna, for two grand duettings with her mentor. Mozart’s Concertos K365 and K242 (the latter arranged for two pianos), both gleefully performed, will keep you guessing to the last as to who is playing which part. Brendel’s influence passes like a spectre over Cooper’s solo performance of the D960 Sonata of Schubert. But this is very much a wonder of Cooper’s own making, born of her own deeply private and acute tuning-in to the soul of the composer, and the long, dream-fantasy of his late works. More Schubert in the B flat Piano Trio in which Cooper is joined, in a buoyantly rhythmic performance, by Raphael Oleg and the cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton, who is an eloquent partner, too, in Rachmaninov’s G minor Sonata. Perhaps Cooper’s closest musical soulmate of all is Wolfgang Holzmair; and here we have not only their great Schumann, Wolf and Beethoven from the mid-1990s, but three tracks never released before. Whether out-takes or over-matter, they’re certainly more than worth a hearing, with Robert Schumann’s ‘Aus den östlichen Rosen’ a gentle breath of melancholy, and Clara’s ‘Warum willst du and’re fragen’ a wonder of tender confiding. Cyrus Meher-Homji (of Universal Music, Australia) is to be congratulated on this compilation: his thoughtful interview with Cooper in the accompanying booklet is a real bonus.
Cyrus Meher-Homji… works tirelessly to retrieve memorable recordings which, for one or other reason, have been dropped from the catalogues… thanks to this re-issue [these recordings] are available to listeners who might not have been aware of their existence. And for those who might have experienced Imogen Cooper’s artistry exclusively in relation to solo work, this set will bring home just how versatile this remarkable musician is.