Jane Coop

Three Keyboard Masters: Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff

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This little Canadian release doesn't promise much on the outside. The graphic design is pretty much nonexistent, and the label, Skylark Music, has been around since 1982 but has only released about a dozen albums, many of them by the present pianist, Jane Coop. The program has a conservatory recital flavor, with the three works linked only by being, as the title tells you, keyboard masters. However, don't let appearances fool you: save for a rather generic sound (not matching among the three pieces, to boot), these are quite distinctive and worthwhile performances. Coop was a student of Beethoven specialist Anton Kuerti, and his influence shows here, and not only in the detailed, just slightly humorous Bagatelles, Op. 33, of Beethoven. The real find here is the set of pieces by Rachmaninoff, which avoid pounding percussive attacks in favor of flowing textures that attain grace and even a kind of mysticism. Sample one of the Preludes, and you'll find a wholly distinctive voice in this music -- not the one the composer applied, but he does not get the last word. The Bach Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903, is also impressive, giving in neither to pianistic extremes nor to historical performance influences. A sleeper of an album that you would do well not to overlook.

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