Only a handful of artists on the gruelling international touring circuit have the ability to make the concert spaces around them seem smaller; drawing their audience in, with the most personal of invitations to spend some time in their extraordinary world. Imogen Cooper is such an artist. The intimacy she created in her only Adelaide concert for Musica Viva, made for a unique experience from a great concert pianist.
Cooper’s expertise at conveying the charm of Robert Schumann’s music was revealed, as she opened with his Novellette, op 21 no 2 in D major. Schumann composed eight works in the set in 1838 for the woman with whom he had the greatest musical romance of the Romantic period, Clara Wieck (later Schumann). The beautiful, seldom-performed second piece transitioned elegantly to Davidsbündlertänze (Dances of the League of David), op 6 (1837). Across these eighteen character pieces, Cooper superbly depicted the joy, angst, intensity and introvert and extrovert offerings of the composer; the humour, particularly in the 12th, emphasized delightfully.
Following interval and a visit from the piano tuner, Cooper with microphone, endeared herself even further by explaining her choices for the carefully considered program. Composed in 1860 by Johannes Brahms (described by Robert Schumann several years earlier as the saviour of German music), Theme and Variations in D minor (arr from String Sextet no 1, op 18) saw Cooper transform herself into a string sextet to perform her own splendid reduction of the delicate and elaborate piece Brahms dedicated to Clara Schumann.
The dénouement, Piano Sonata no 21 in B flat major, D960, a performance of thirty-five blissful minutes of Franz Schubert’s stunning music showcased the immensely talented hands of Cooper. Schubert completed the piece a few months before he died aged 31. Cooper juxtaposed the “trills of death” with the tranquil pianissimos so brilliantly as to make one consider unearthly forces at work. The fourth movement, Allegro ma non troppo concluded with such panache as to evoke gasps of delight, followed by elated applause.
Imogen Cooper is master of her solo instrument. She is also extremely graceful, and an absolute class act. Despite having just spent one and a half hours delivering a breathtaking performing from memory, she emerged after the concert looking completely refreshed, chatted and was photographed with fans, and signed CD’s.
This is Imogen Cooper’s first recital tour of Australia; may it not be her last.
The Adelaide concert was recorded for broadcast on 5MBS FM.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: $33 – $128
Bookings: Through Musica Viva