Imogen Cooper

Schubert Live, Vol. 1

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In this two-disc set of live performances recorded in London's Queen Elizabeth Hall in April and November 2008, Imogen Cooper plays Schubert's piano music as if he were a passionate and poetic composer in the full bloom of youth, a fact that is often overlooked by pianists who prefer the image of Schubert as a despairing and syphilitic composer morbidly conscious of his mortality. While some of the principal works here might possibly justify such a view, Cooper makes a strong case for an optimistic interpretation with her virile and assertive performances, which show Schubert's strength, his resolve, and above all, his love of life. She brings the central Andantino of the A major Sonata, D. 959, about as close as possible to the edge of unrestrained fury without losing control, but she also brings the music back to its self with her delightfully effervescent Scherzo and serenely singing closing Allegretto. Cooper likewise allows the A minor Sonata, D. 845, its head in the opening Moderato, and especially the weighty Andante poco mosso, but pulls it back in the Scherzo and closing Allegro vivace. Saving her best performance for last, Cooper turns in a wonderfully expansive, wholly cogent reading of the D major Sonata, D. 850, that rivals the finest ever recorded. Cooper's mastery of Schubert's idiosyncratic and not always graceful piano writing can be taken as a given, as can her lovely tone, powerful technique, and robust sense of rhythm. Recorded in cooperation with the BBC, Avie's sound is a bit distant, but nonetheless quite evocative.

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