I have written here before about Imogen Cooper’s Schubert playing, and in particular about the wonderful series of three double-CDs from live concerts, released some three or more years ago. Well, on Wednesday we had the chance to hear her playing an all-Schubert programme at the Wigmore Hall: a stunning evening.
She began with the 16 German Dances D783, played with even more alternating zest and poignant grace than in those live recordings. What was she saying? That even in these miniatures, there is so much humanity? And then the three Klavierstücke, played as well as I have heard them. The Guardian reviewer wrote “the seriousness with which the Drei Klavierstücke D946 were treated created something as substantial and searching as any sonata”: well, yes, but it isn’t somehow optional, a matter of creative license, to treat these late pieces “seriously” — they are substantial and searching, and Imogen Cooper’s was a true response.
After the interval, the six Moments Musicaux D780, again played with perhaps even more emotional contrasts than on the live recording — the fifth Allegro Vivace really attacked, and the sixth Allegretto magically poised and ending with perfect calm (‘over-leisurely’ playing according to the Guardian — no!). Finally, the great G major Sonata D894. I’m not sure if we were too drained from what went before, or whether Imogen Cooper had herself given too much, but this was the one performance that seemed less wonderfully successful than the recorded version — but it was still astonishing, with quite magical episodes. The audience response was rightly rapturous.
One of the great concerts to remember then. I’ve been listening again to those earlier performances on the live CDs. If you don’t have them, then you are missing some of the greatest Schubert playing of our age, of any age.