This CD, one of a series with pianist Imogen Cooper performing and leading Britain's Northern Sinfonia in Mozart piano concertos, is released jointly by the Avie label and the Sage Gateshead concert hall in North East England. Ensembles often release their own CDs by now; for a venue to do so is rarer, but the results here promise well for similar enterprises. Also unusual are the credits: Cooper is listed as pianist and director, and Bradley Creswick as leader/co-director. How this worked out in practice remains unaddressed. However they did it, this is a standout pair of Mozart concerto performances in a British field crowded with Mozart discs featuring modern instruments and conventional symphony orchestras. It seems that Cooper was in charge of the overall conception of the music, for the coordination between piano and orchestra is extraordinary. The orchestral expositions are convincing in both global and local structure, with a great deal of detail revealed in the inner lines, and Cooper's elaborations of those details in the piano can stand up to many hearings with something new appearing each time. She has a grasp of Mozart's ebullience in the two finales that seems to elude so many pianists, and the slow movements are exemplars of gentle beauty. The entire performance is executed in conversation-level dynamics, neither symphonic in scope nor preciously fragile, and overall it's hard to think of a livelier, more enjoyable, yet more intricate performance of this pair of works from Mozart's maturity. The concert hall may be shaped like a soft-serve ice cream cone that has fallen on its side, but its acoustics are very strong, and nothing of Cooper's accomplishment is missed. The amibitions of the series toward international significance are shown by the translation of the helpful booklet notes into French and German, and those ambitions are fully realized here.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 22 in E flat major|
|Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 18 in B flat major|