Imogen Cooper


Schubert: Song Cycles (Die schöne Müllerin, Die Winterreise, Schwanengesang)

Composed by Franz Schubert

Performed by Imogen Cooper, Wolfgang Holzmair

Decca / CD 0289 478 4272 9 DB 4

"those who have understandably become addicted to the Holzmair/ Cooper partnership will once again have much to please them. Holzmair, predictably, sings the familiar cycle with a sensitivity to words and music, allied to an identification with the forlorn lover's state of mind, that bespeaks consistency of approach. His plangent, slightly vibrant high baritone suggests very much the son of the protagonist of Die schtine Miillerin, whose woes Holzmair so superbly enacted more than ten years ago now (Preiser, 3/89). This lonely traveller seems mesmerized by the cold, unyielding countryside through which he is wandering, vulnerable to every passing experience. The tears in the voice are very much a part of the reading. While the line is never disturbed with overcharged emphases, as it is by some of the baritones listed above, verbal acuity is always there, as at "schwarze Haare" in "Die greise Kopf". In many respects the final song, "Der Leiermann" sums up the whole: it is delivered in a clipped, numbed way virtually excluding any rubato or sense of desperation: this man simply decides, as though entranced, to throw in his lot with this strange companion.

Holzmair is throughout at one with the wonderfully resourceful and imaginative Cooper. Ideally balanced with her partner in a warm yet intimate recording, she revels in all of Schubert's onomatopoeic effects, not least the hoofbeats of the postman's horse in "Die Post", the stark falling of the odd leaf in "Letzte Hoffnung" and the howling dogs of "Im Dorfe". Of course other pianists have noted these things, but not perhaps quite with Cooper's arresting yet never exaggerated phrasing. Over and above that is the sense of two minds thinking alike and as one all through." -- A.B., Gramophone [5/1996]

Die Schone Mullerin
"His simple, sincere, vulnerable protagonist emerges in a quickly vibrant light baritone, definitely Viennese in tone, seemingly apt to Schubert's intentions, perhaps more so than the often more strongly delineated, more psychologically inclined readings we so often hear today. Since his recording for Preiser 16 years ago, Holzmair has honed and deepened his interpretation: here verbal accentuation is bolder, rubato more subtly employed, phrasing more positive, while the fundamentals remain the same.

Above all the rapport with his regular Philips partner, that nonpareil of a Schubertian, Imogen Cooper, more perceptive than Demus, enhances the whole interpretation. Her carefully graded dynamics, particularly in the three strophic songs, which never seem too long, her buoyancy of rhythm in 'Ungeduld', her gentle, other-worldly rocking in 'Wiegenlied' (advantageously taken in D flat rather than the customary baritone key of C), these and much else are profoundly satisfying. So is the instinctive unity of the pair in the folksong intimations of 'Des Müllers Blumen', the agonizings of 'Pause', the ferocious anger of the two imprecations against the hunter rival.

So, this deeply felt and understood reading seems to fulfil Schubert's wishes without fuss or excessive intervention, and - important this -Holzmair's high-baritone timbre is just as appropriate to the work as that of a true tenor."

-- A.B., Gramophone [7/1990]