No grandstanding for this pianist and the result is always beautiful.
Throughout her live programme Imogen Cooper’s poise and overall artistry make a refreshing change from a more overt, less subtle virtuosity. She captures all of Beethoven’s speculative beauty at the start of his Op 101 Sonata, and if others are more fiercely energised in the second movement march, with its prophecy of Schumann’s obsessive dotted rhythms, few are more stylish and refined. Again, if her view of Mozart’s A minor Sonata could be thought sometimes self-consciously beautiful or manicured, there is no denying her calibre, never more so than in her urgent propulsion of the wind-swept finale.
Cooper studied with Kathleen Long in London and Jacques Février in Paris, which gives her Ravel a special distinction. Less animated or razor-sharp than others in “Alborada del gracioso”, she never forces the issue, and there is never a hint of the literalism that is the bane of many French pianists. “Noctuelles”, “Oiseaux tristes” and “La vallée des cloches” come beguilingly alive when played with such freedom and fantasy, yet always within a scrupulously true and accurate framework.
For her encore Cooper gives us Debussy’s “Les terraces des audiences”, reminding you in every elusive phrase that subtlety and finesse are at the very heart of great French piano writing. The BBC’s soft-grained sound is ideally attuned to this never less than beautiful recital.
With every piece, and indeed each bar, immaculately voiced and finessed to the smallest rhythmic nicety, this was proof not just of her outstanding musical understanding, but also of her discriminating taste
What immediately impresses is the recorded sound - this is just like being present in the Wigmore Hall: and that is surely what any good recording engineer strives for