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Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Humoreske, Op. 20 (1838-39) [27:08]
Romanze, Op. 28 No. 2 (1839) [4:05]
Sonata, Op. 11 (1833-35) [31:34]
Clara WIECK-SCHUMANN (1819-1896)
Romance, Op. 5 No. 3 (1833-36) [3:07]
Le Ballet des Revenants, Op. 5 No. 4 (1833) [5:06]
Imogen Cooper (piano)
rec. Concert Hall, Snape Maltings, Suffolk, 2014
CHANDOS CHAN10841 [71:13]

I seem to have been listening to a lot of discs of Schumann’s piano music recently — one of my favourites.

The present disc opens with the Humoreske, Op. 20, and whilst this is the slowest of the five versions that I have it does not feel drawn out. In Cooper’s hands its romanticism is given more emphasis and as a result the link with the other music presented on this disc is strengthened. Of all my recordings of this work I still find Radu Lupu’s excellent recording (Decca 440 496-2) the one I return to.

The Humoreske is followed by the second of the Drei Romanzen Op. 28. It is with this work that Cooper links Robert and Clara, a link which she reinforces in her own booklet notes. Cooper here errs on the brisk side, not that you notice much, as once again she brings out the romantic nature of the music perfectly well. This piece is linked to the following work, the Romance which is the third of the Quatre Pièces caractéristiques Op. 5 by the teenage Clara. The connection is clear to the listener, as whilst Clara is clearly a composer of worth in her own right, the influence of her future husband is clear.

If the link between Robert and Clara was one of influence in Clara’s Romance, in Le Ballet des Revenants, the fourth of the Quatre Pièces caractéristiques, the connection is more tangible. This work was composed around the same time as and shares a short motif with the first movement exposition of Robert’s Op. 11 Sonata. The two short pieces by Clara are well placed on this disc, I am ashamed to say that whilst I know her songs and the more famous Piano Trio, her piano music is new to me. It shows a romantic maturity far greater than you might expect from someone in her mid-teens. On this evidence I will be investigating more of her piano music.

The final piece on the disc is the aforementioned Sonata Op. 11. Here Cooper gives a strong and impassioned performance, one which stands well with the other recordings I have. This is the work in which she really displays her prowess as a Schumann interpreter; the one where she gets to the heart of the music.

This is a very enjoyable disc. The juxtaposition of the music of Robert and Clara Schumann works well. Imogen Cooper gives a performance of great merit and insight, which is backed up by her excellent and scholarly booklet essay. The recorded sound is, as always with Chandos, exemplary. The engineers capture Cooper's playing in a quite natural and sympathetic acoustic.

Stuart Sillitoe


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