What was the inspiration behind the creation of the Imogen Cooper Music Trust?
I’m at a stage of my life where things have come together to enable me to do something that I’ve been wanting to do for about a year: I want to be able to give chunks of unlimited time to young musicians, primarily pianists, so that they can access any knowledge that they may find useful. I was given this possibility in my early twenties by wonderful people like Alfred Brendel, Arthur Rubinstein and the Amadeus Quartet.
That’s one strand. The second is that I want to do this in the countryside in peace, and surrounded by beauty. When I teach in an urban environment [Cooper is visiting professor of piano at London’s Royal Academy of Music], or in other places, there is a huge amount of traffic noise and bustle to work against. Of course, so much is accessible through these wonderful institutions, but there is another way of working with music and that is to study in quiet. I believe strongly that the passage of music through one’s being happens much quicker if it’s unencumbered by exterior noise.
Do you have a venue in mind?
I’m lucky to have some dear friends who have a converted 19th century farmhouse in Provence, France – and they are letting me have the place free of charge for two separate weeks each year.
That’s very generous. What form will the teaching take?
There are a lot of misconceptions about young musicians, such as that they are only interested in power and speed, getting through competitions and so on. That hasn’t been my experience at all. I find that for the most part, postgraduate musicians are at a very high level and are thirsting to know how to hold the audience’s attention.
I encourage my students to listen to music – not just the piano repertoire – and to discuss the music they love. We examine work by singers, conductors – this is where YouTube is wonderful – and formulate words about music, which tells us a lot about ourselves; our weak points and why we shy away from certain things. All this can happen when you have six days to think about nothing else – and I’m thrilled to be able to offer this to young musicians.
How will you select the chosen few?
That’s in the development stage; at the moment it happens through invitation but I’m working out how best to spread the net. There is a particular moment for a young pianist when you have the right equipment, and the curiosity. It’s good to be quite tough at this stage, and a certain level of stability is needed in order to benefit. I don’t hesitate to say that I am looking for a very high level.
The emphasis on the rural setting is interesting.
Sándor Végh had this in mind when he set up the IMS [International Musicians Seminar] at Prussia Cove, where I spent my younger years. He was quite strict; he didn’t want anyone to leave the grounds the whole time they were there. There was no question of going to the pub in Penzance! I wouldn’t say the same for this Trust but it happens that the location is quite isolated. It’s much easier to focus in this type of setting. It’s what happens when you’re recording: you record for four days – probably playing and listening for nine to ten hours a day – and you become what your task is, you really don’t know about anything else.
Read full interview: Imogen Cooper on teaching, tranquility and thematic programming
Developments in 2017
- • ICMT week in Eygalieres near Saint-Remy-de-Provence 1st-6th May. Public events 5th and 6th May.
- • Summer session in Melbourne, Australia, 24th and 27th August.
For more information: