Imogen Cooper

Robert & Clara Schumann: Piano Works

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Recordings comparing the music of Robert and Clara Schumann have become fairly common, but this fine outing from English pianist Imogen Cooper is unusually to the point. There are only two works by Clara, but each connects in a specific way with a work by Robert that's adjacent on the program, and the result is a set of pieces that gives a real feeling for the nature of their creative and romantic collaboration. Most striking is the similarity of the themes in Clara's "Le Ballet des Revenants," the fourth of her Quatre Pièces caractéristiques, Op. 5, and the second theme of the first movement in Robert's Piano Sonata, Op. 11. It's too close to be coincidental, and the only question is who came up with it first. As annotator Nicholas Marston notes, the Sonata, a difficult and still not terribly common item on recitals today, was thought unwieldy and overly ornate in its own time, including by the young Clara, who certainly had the chops to handle it. It's tempting although hardly presumptive to hear the insertion of this theme as Robert's response to her critique. At any rate, the Sonata gains a bit of clarity with this peg to hang one's perceptions on. Clara's "Romance in B major" (track seven) makes a good sample for the album. It's linked (although not as closely as in the other case) to the preceding "Romanze" of Robert, and is indeed both more formally complex and more emotionally ambitious. The program opens with a very fine performance by Cooper of the set of Humoreske, Op. 20, of Robert Schumann: she catches the tough, capricious, unpredictable quality of the music. Excellent Chandos sound from the Snape Maltings Concert Hall rounds out a superior package.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
Humoreske, Op. 20 in B flat major
1 4:55
2 4:37
3 4:57
4 6:28
5 6:08
Drei Romanzen, Op. 28: Romanze in F sharp major
6 4:05
Quatre Pièces caractéristiques, Op. 5: Romance in B major
7 3:07
Quatre Pièces caractéristiques, Op. 5: Le Ballet des Revenants in B minor (Scène fantastique)
8 5:07
Sonata, Op. 11 in F sharp minor
9 11:24
10 3:24
11 5:47
12 11:08
blue highlight denotes track pick