This three CD set is a marvellous collection of music. Unlike many artist-focused compilations, the set features a series of carefully selected and well-matched pieces that give an overview of Cooper’s exquisite talents without skipping erratically across the whole repertoire. The first CD gives us three Mozart concertos including two for two pianos with Cooper and Alfred Brendel at the keyboards. The second is devoted to Schubert: the penultimate sonata and then the first piano trio. The third features Brahms’s intermezzo, Rachmaninov’s sonata for cello and piano and a selection of lieder with baritone Wolfgang Holzmair.
Mozart and Schubert provide melodies and harmonies that may seem unfailingly beguiling, yet it is precisely their charm that militates against the kind of directness that is required of truly great performances. Cooper has no such trouble.
She seems so assured with every note; her delivery is crystal clear without any hint of the clinical. Her interpretation of Mozart’s Concerto No 27 is mesmeric: just as this work should be. She manages to build the rhythms and crescendos without ever losing the sense of fragility that is at the heart of this work. These are performances understood from the inside.
After six years at the Paris conservatory, Cooper as a young pianist went to study for an intense seven weeks with Alfred Brendel. It was here that she learned to go beyond the mechanics of good playing to real pianism. In the liner notes she writes: Brendel taught me in that first lesson to listen to myself in a completely different way -“ to listen with the most intense scrutiny for balance of sound, colour and atmosphere. Brendel, she says, stretched both her ears and imagination to extremes. These lessons have been learned deeply and are evident in every carefully felt musical phrase.