Imogen Cooper’s French and Spanish Recital

Review by: Jed Distler

CH20119

Artistic Quality: 7

Sound Quality: 9

In a review of Imogen Cooper’s 2006 Zankel Hall recital, the New York Times described her playing as “virtuosity without razzle-dazzle”. That more or less sums up this French and Spanish Chandos recital. She brings crispness and point to Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso, yet puts on the brakes when the notorious repeated notes kick in; for her live performance on the Wigmore Hall label she took more risks, and for the better. Cooper fares better with the same composer’s Pavane, as she sustains a fluent “walking” tempo throughout and brings a fullness of body to the climactic chords.

Falla’s homage to Debussy features admirably varied articulation and obvious relishing of the composer’s stabbing dissonances. Debussy’s La soirée dans Grenade and La puerta del vino may not be the sexiest versions committed to disc, yet they more than adequately lilt in Cooper’s hands—although one could imagine more rhythmic kick and dynamic outbursts throughout La sérénade interrompue. Likewise, Cooper’s soft-grained L’isle joyeuse undermines the music’s Lisztian swirl.

The pianist wields a heavy hand in the more energetic pieces from Albéniz’s Iberia suite presented here (El Puerto and Fête-Dieu à Séville), but I found myself mesmerized by her oddly inward and meditative way with the same composer’s heel-clicking Malagueña. It’s an unorthodox conception that totally works. Not surprisingly, Cooper’s lyrical gifts go hand in glove with the refined delicacy of two Mompou danzas. In all, a well-recorded and often enjoyable excursion outside of Cooper’s Austro-German repertoire comfort zone.



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Recording Details:

Album Title: Iberia y Francia
Reference Recording: None for this collection

Works by Debussy, Falla, Ravel, Albéniz, and Mompou

  • Imogen Cooper (piano)

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