Imogen Cooper


Schumann: Abegg Variations, Davidsbündlertänze; Brahms: Fantasies

Composed by Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms

Performed by Imogen Cooper

Ottavo / OTR C39027 / Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London

We have too few recordings of solo recitals from Imogen Cooper, and this one is welcome, not least because it allows us to hear her in other music besides Mozart and Schubert, the two composers with whom she is represented in the current catalogue. She brings a pleasing, quiet warmth and tenderness to the Abegg Variations, along with the spontaneity and vivacity that Schumann's youthful work demands, and in its blend of gentleness and vigour her playing reminds me of Murray Perahia—by which I intend a compliment which I hope she will accept as such. I like the recording, too, made in that useful London venue, the Henry Wood Hall.

The Davidsbundlertanze is a work that Schumann's dedication informs us was composed by his two selves Florestan and Eusebius, one impetuous and the other introspective; it was also the year of his engagement to Clara Wieck and he told her that he wrote this music with much happiness. This, too, has deeply sensitive playing in such Eusebius-inspired music as the quiet second piece of the 18 which make up the whole—and it is answered no less effectively by the vigorous Florestan in the one that follows. Purists may disapprove of the added low B in the last chord of No. 4, but musically it works. Similarly, No. 7 (marked Nicht schnell) is slower than I would choose, but has beauty when presented like this. The pedalling is rich but not excessively so, and in No. 11, which is marked to be played ''simply'', the expressive content is well judged so that there is plenty of feeling yet without exaggeration or mannerism—though the last eight bars (marked ppp in my Schirmer Edition) could have been more distant—while the inexpressibly tender No. 14 is a delight.

I have used up space on the Schumann and left little for the Brahms. These pieces also come across strongly, with their varying but often sombre moods well conveyed. Textures and dynamics are rich and delicate by turns, and real passion emerges, as does the continuity between each of these highly personal utterances. I only query the briskish pace for the sixth piece, an E major Intermezzo. This is an impressive recital, and I now hope to hear Imogen Cooper in more music by these two composers.

Christopher Headington, Gramophone, May 1992