Piano

Imogen Cooper

© Sim Canetty-Clarke

Introduction

Regarded as one of the finest interpreters of Classical and Romantic repertoire, Imogen Cooper is internationally renowned for her virtuosity and lyricism. During the 2016/17 season she will perform with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle, Sydney Symphony with Simone Young and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra with Thomas Dausgaard. Solo recitals will include Boston, London and Australia.  Last season, she appeared with the London Symphony Orchestra and Bernard Haitink, Seattle Symphony and Kioi Sinfonietta in Japan, as well as performing recitals in New York, Philadelphia and Paris.

Imogen has a widespread international career and has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia, Boston, Vienna Philharmonic, Royal Concertgebouw, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Budapest Festival, NHK Symphony Orchestras and all the major British orchestras. She has also undertaken tours with the Australian and Orpheus Chamber Orchestras.

Imogen received a CBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours in 2007 and was the recipient of an award from the Royal Philharmonic Society the following year. In 1997 she was awarded an Honorary Membership of the Royal Academy of Music and in 1999 she was made a Doctor of Music at Exeter University. The Imogen Cooper Music Trust was founded in 2015, to support young pianists at the cusp of their careers, and give them time in an environment of peace and beauty.

Her recent recordings for Chandos Records feature music by Brahms, Chopin, Liszt, Wagner and Robert and Clara Schumann.


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Discography

  • 01 May 17 Liszt & Wagner CD release
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    “Cooper’s keyboard mastery is as searching as the music itself: the whirling bravura of the Deuxième valse oubliée and Bagatelle sans tonalité has their harmonic world sounding astonishingly forward-looking. Her way of balancing chords mesmerises the ear – both in the consonant close of Sposalizio (whose poised opening is exquisitely delivered) and the strangely dissonant final bars of Il penseroso. This is altogether exceptional music making” ★★★★★
    Malcolm Hayes, BBC Music Magazine, May 2017

  • 25 Apr 17 BACH Week Festival review
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    Music of the Baroque
    Conductor: Jane Glover
    MOZART Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major K503

    “Cooper has long been one of the world’s most eloquent and stylish Mozarteans, like her teacher, Alfred Brendel. Yet her approach to the C major concerto was very much her own — forthright in formal outline, firm yet elegant in tone, crystalline in articulation and chordal voicing, sensitive to the subtlest inflections of rubato, color and dynamics. Cooper and Glover’s shared sensibility worked entirely to the benefit of this most grandly symphonic of Mozart’s final keyboard concertos.”
    John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune, 25 April 2017

  • 17 Jun 16 CHOPIN CD Release
    More info  

    “In the quieter lyrical passages [Polonaise-fantaisie] she finds a rare poignancy that I find most affecting – and indeed it is this element that is a constant feature of Cooper’s playing. She has always been rightly lauded for her luminous, rich tone and it is deployed telling in Op 61 and the two late Nocturnes which follow.”
    Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone

    ★★★★★ “Atmospheres are intense, intimate, turbulent and dreamlike by turns; and Cooper injects every note with strength of personality”
    Jessica Duchen, BBC Music Magazine (Instrumental Choice), September 2016

  • 08 May 16
    The Frick Collection, New York
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    “After intermission came Schubert’s Sonata in B flat (D. 960), a broadly paced, tightly structured work. Still, it has within it many fleeting gestures similar to Schumann’s: notably, those seemingly heaven-sent incursions of lyricism in the Andante sostenuto. After the wonderful first two movements, the third and fourth can, in the wrong hands, sound empty and rattling by comparison. Ms. Cooper sustained attention admirably, adding rhythmic interest with subtle touches of rubato … Many performances of this sonata prove memorable for the beauty of individual moments. This one stood out in making the work a satisfying whole.”
    James R. Oestreich, The New York Times, 10 May 2016

  • 23 Sep 15 ROBERT SCHUMANN CD release
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    “… for many years now, Imogen Cooper has reaped glowing reviews and the profound admiration of her colleagues, but have we, as a nation, really awakened to the fact that we have here not only a very distinguished but a truly great pianist? Why is she not ‘damed’? A CBE is not sufficient honour. True, she’s a woman, and woman pianists are still short-changed, but greatness, human or musical, transcends gender. Pianistically alone, Cooper commands a dynamic and colouristic range beyond most pianists. She understands that musical, like verbal, speech acquires eloquence and continuity though the close, asymmetrical juxtapositions of extreme but varied contrasts – as in any polysyllabic word. Nowhere is this truer than in Schumann…” ★★★★★
    BBC Music Magazine (Instrumental Choice), November 2015

    “Every musical twist and emotional turn is negotiated with deftness and insight, and the (Snape Maltings) recording is of demonstration quality.” ★★★★★
    Classical Music Magazine, October 2015

    ” … Cooper remains one of the sovereign pianists:
    everything she touches exudes integrity, the highest understanding coupled with a melting beauty of sound. Witness the superb articulation within a perfectly
    Schumannesque  soundworld of the opening
    F-sharp minor Novelette, and the amazing sense of rightness … ”
    International Piano Magazine (International Piano Choice) Nov/Dec 15

    “This is the third of Imogen Cooper’s discs centred around Schumann for Chandos and the first wholly devoted to Robert. It’s a fascinatingly programmed affair, taking us from his youthful Abegg Variations right to the end of his life and the Geistervariationen … Everything Cooper does speaks of long acquaintance and real empathy. She opens with the extended Eighth Novellette, which is full of tenderness, passion and humour and never sounds overbearing in the louder passages.”
    Harriet Smith, Gramohpone, October 2015

    ” … this new discographic landmark takes its place among the most balanced of Schumann’s Keyboard works.”
    Michel Le Naour, p109 Classica Magazine, December 2015

  • 18 May 15 With Adrian Brendel and Henning Kraggerud
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    “The performance was characterised by moments of great delicacy and tenderness in which the music spoke for itself. The Scherzo was a frivolous, lighthearted affair in which the musicians seemed to be having fun, with its plaintive trio providing a delicate contrast. Kragarrud started off the Rondo in fine style with Imogen Cooper taking over from him, her fingers scurrying up and down the keyboard. This was a fast, ebullient movement with melody after melody pouring forth and tremendous rapport between the three players.”
    Seen & Heard International, 20 May 2015

  • 07 May 15 Seattle Symphony
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    “Cooper herself is an exemplary example of how Mozart is best played today, discerning and expressing every nuance without overdoing it, portraying emotion with restraint, and introspection lightly carried though clearly present. The lighthearted charm of the first and last movements of No. 17 were contrasted with that restraint and introspection in the slow movement, where the orchestra gave light accompaniment to the outward serenity combined with inner depth of Cooper’s playing.”
    Philippa Kiraly, The Seattle Times, 8 May 2015 

  • 06 Jan 15 ROBERT & CLARA SCHUMANN CD Release
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    “This disc contains some very distinguished Schumann playing…the understanding, individuality and poetic refinement in Cooper’s playing, and the inclusion of piano music by the composer’s wife is a fascinating broadening of our listening experience.”
    International Record Review, Jan 2015

    “Cooper asserts her stylistic credentials right at the start of the disc in Robert’s Humoreske, playing with a warm, golden tone … Cooper’s articulation is clearly defined but also effectively varied in touch and colour; her phrasing in the more meditative music is mellifluous, a quality that beautifully spills over into the F sharp major Romanze.”
    Geoffrey Norris, Saturday Telegraph 14 February 2015

    “In madcap structure, imagination, ambition and sheer wealth of ideas, Schumann’s Humoresque and Sonata No Op 11 are among his most fascinating works … Cooper allows them to cohere naturally through the sheer élan with which she imbues them.  Fresh and inspiring … a rich, empathetic and beautifully calibrated recital.” ★★★★
    BBC Music Magazine, March 2015

  • 19 Aug 14 SCHUBERT Sonata in B flat D960
    City Recital Hall, Sydney
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    “The development section darkened in mood, and, for a moment becomes obstinately focused on a repeated chord before being released for the return of the opening. Cooper brought a lifetime of experience to its expansive architecture.”
    Sydney Morning Herald

  • 05 May 14 MOZART Piano Concerto No. 22 London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Mark Elder
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    “The final breath of fresh air came not from Strauss but Mozart, with Imogen Cooper’s performance of E flat piano concerto K482. This can be a staid work, but here it was a marvel of charm, wit and restraint. I can’t think when I’ve heard it better played.”
    The Guardian 5 May 2014

  • 27 Apr 14 BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 Cleveland Orchestra / Jane Glover
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    “Imogen Cooper did not make a misstep in her performance, which ranged from the most subtle musical voicing of phrases to thunderous passages. The lengthy first movement cadenza was especially brilliant in its enunciation of Beethoven’s harmonic ideas combined with virtuoso pianism. In this performance, Ms. Cooper and Ms. Glover certainly espoused the concept of Beethoven as emerging Romantic, but not quite having left the Classical era behind.”
    Bachtrack 27 April 2014

  • 05 Sep 13 SCHUBERT
    BBC Proms
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    “Prom 73 began with Imogen Cooper playing Schubert’s C minor D958 piano sonata, allowing the labyrinthine outlines of this mysterious work to work their magic in the darkened auditorium. To see this quintessentially intimate music being rolled out for an audience of thousands – this was a very well-attended Late Prom – was to realise anew that Schubert’s piano sonatas are symphonies in all but name.”
    The Independent, 09 September 2013

    “Cooper’s phrasing was exquisite, the right hand octaves given as if floating on a soft breeze. In her reading, there were very slight degrees of rubato, which were integral to the success of both the Adagio and the following scherzo like Minuet, which Cooper combined without as much as a pause for breath. Despite the acoustic, her clarity in the finale was beyond reproach; Schubert’s private soundworld accessed with dignity but also with revealing insights into the torture and twisted thoughts behind this work.”
    classicalsource.com 9 September 2013

    “Imogen Cooper – why on earth she’s not a dame is a big mystery, though perhaps not if you look at the honours set-up  – can always be relied upon to draw you in to the light-fading of late Schubert. Sure enough, after the startling summons of the C minor sonata D958, she was achieving all her usual subtle, inscaped wonders in the second subject, shifting colour with the composer’s miraculous enharmonic key changes.”
    The Arts Desk, 06 September 2013

  • 22 Apr 13 BEETHOVEN Piano Concerto No. 1 Budapest Festival Orchestra / Ivan Fischer
    Royal Festival Hall
    More info  

    ” … her interpretation of the work as a whole was as spirited an account as I have ever heard. While the slow movement had a singing warmth, the opening Allegro became an exemplary display of pellucid passage-work and subtly-shaded perspectives; the concluding Rondo – in which Beethoven plays tricks with the listener’s expectations – was mercurial from start to finish.”
    The Independent, 23 April 2013

    “The very spry Cooper sprang her own surprise on the orchestra when she plumped for Beethoven’s longer cadenza – a thrilling little rollercoaster. But she was at her very best in the final rondo, which seemed to burst out from her fingers as if a higher power was in control of them.”
    The Times, 23 April 2013

    “Here was a model of light-footed classical elegance, which provided a highly distinctive setting for Imogen Cooper in the solo part. Her natural warmth played beautifully against the orchestra and she responded with playful energy and drama, not least in the long first movement cadenza.”
    Finnancial Times, 24 April 2013

  • 04 Mar 13 SCHUMANN & BRAHMS CD Release
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    “Cooper’s immaculate technique and excellent sense of proportion reinforce her deep, cultured musicality in performances which are wholly exceptional in my experience: such clarity of detail and architectural understanding are to be greatly admired. Her immaculate pianism and thoughtful musicianship are a constant source of wonder throughout this disc, consistently placed at the service of the music and its composer.”
    International Record Review, March 2013

    “Imogen Cooper’s artistic sensibility – highly personal, interpretatively penetrating, yet never didactic – reflects a sympathy with the music so intimate and compelling that it seems for the most part to transcend the very concept of interpretation … The result focuses equally on the richness, range and daring of Schumann’s imagination, and on his stunning craftmanship as a composer.”
    BBC Music Magazine, April 2013

    “Cooper’s Fantasiestücke are less impetuous than some others, but this has advantages. With plenty of supple ebb and flow – flexible but never contrived or exaggerated – there’s enough room to breathe and to take in the detail.”
    International Piano Magazine May 2013

    “Anyone recording Kreisleriana today is up against a vast field of competition; there is an abundance of very fine recordings. As a preliminary to writing this review, this week I have listened to wonderful performances by Lupu (Decca 440 496), Ashkenazy (Decca 470 915), Kempff (DG 471 312) and Anda (Testament SBT 1069). Cooper’s Kreisleriana can hold its own in the face of this stiff competition. Her tempi are perfectly judged, with excellent phrasing and superb dynamic control. Her interpretation is poetic, as in no. 5 (sehr lebhaft) and passionate, as in no. 7 (sehr rasch). Throughout she brings out the Florestan and Eusebius character of each piece. She clearly has a great affinity with this music.”
    Musicweb-International, April 2013

    “As befitting a great chamber musician, Imogen Cooper’s strengths lie inthe detail of her playing and a finely honed ability to separate importantthematic material from accompaniment in thicker textures. While reflective moments are bewitchingly otherworldly in her hands, she finds power in the fast music without resorting to overemphasis … ”
    Limelight Magazine Jul 10 2013

  • 20 Feb 13 SCHUBERT
    Perelman Recital Theatre, Philadelphia
    More info  

    “Two bits of evidence caught the artist heeding Schubert’s notations while exercising the rarest imagination: the fluid consequences of letting emotions dictate wide tempo swings in the first movement, and, in the trio of the third movement, the idea that serenity in its highest form has the ability to leave the listener changed in a small but real way.”
    Philadelphia Inquirer, 22 February 2013

  • 19 Jun 12 SCHUBERT
    Schwarzenberg
    More info  

    “Showing no trace of vanity, this noble lady [Cooper] is solely concerned with fathoming out the music. In doing so, she not only displays determination and a powerful touch, but in the passagework of the Impromptu in E-flat D 899, a jeu perlé that seems to take its energy from an endless source of sound.”
    Neue Dienstag, 19 June 2012

  • 30 Apr 12 CHOPIN
    Gilmore International Keyboard Festival
    More info  

    “There was the poetic flow and melody that she captured so well in the [Chopin] Nocturne. Finally, the complex and varied Ballade showed her ability to take the technical skill required for the piece and bring it to a new level.”
    Kalamazoo Gazette, 1 May 2012

  • 26 Apr 12
    Portland
    More info  

    “She is that rara avis of a virtuoso who is also a consummate musician; one who thinks deeply about the composer’s intent and realizes it … I wondered what it was that made Cooper’s playing so unusual, and settled on the word “richness.” Everything she plays, from a simple chord to a rapid cadenza, seems to have an orchestra behind it. The inner voices weave some sort of magic.”
    Portland Press Herald, 26 April 2012

  • 15 Mar 12 MOZART Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major K. 456 The Hallé Orchestra / Mark Elder
    More info  

    “Imogen Cooper was the exemplary soloist in Mozart’s B flat Piano Concerto K456, her every phrase carefully sculpted, every chord precisely weighted.”
    The Guardian, 15 March 2012

  • 04 Mar 12
    Minneapolis
    More info  

    “Essence seems to be what Imogen Cooper is all about … It was a performance of intellectual heft and emotional insight, the interpretations clearly shaped by decades of experience.”
    Minneapolis Pioneer Press, 4 March 2012

  • 30 Nov 12 With Paul Lewis
    St. George's Bristol
    More info  

    “Schubert’s Allegro in A minor, D947, guaranteed an arresting opening, but here the music carried a tragic nobility, rather than merely becoming a stormy drama. The less familiar Andantino Varié in B minor, D823, was characterised by elegant phrasing, its sublime harmonies poetically realised. High point of the evening was the Sonata in C, D812, the “Grand Duo”; its symphonic architectural span was powerfully sustained. Yet, as one would expect from two such passionate Schubertians, it was the composer’s characteristic extremes, where pain and ecstasy, nonchalance and intensity offer different facets of the same lyrical impulse, that touched most deeply.”
    The Guardian, 3 December 2012

  • 03 Oct 11 MOZART Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466 Musique of the Baroque / Jane Glover
    More info  

    “Cooper was her own interpreter throughout her noble, immensely cultivated reading.”
    Chicago Tribune, 3 October 2011

  • 22 May 11 SCHUBERT Trout Quintet Takàcs Quartet
    Queen Elizabeth Hall London
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    “The second half’s performance of the Trout Quintet showed similar class, the three Takács members easily absorbing the push of Graham Mitchell’s double bass and the pull of Imogen Cooper’s piano into a common pursuit of joy in all its many shades. This was as life-affirming an experience as any could wish for.”
    The Guardian, 22 May 2011

  • 26 Mar 11 MOZART Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major K. 271 Philhadelphia Orchestra / Stéphane Denève
    More info  

    ” … the performance was beautifully crafted, right down to fine details of interplay that revealed a lifetime’s worth of experience embodied in the concerto’s eventful three movements. For that matter, Cooper’s mesmerizing treatment of the second-movement cadenza alone seemed to encompass a lifetime’s experience.”
    Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 March 2011

  • 01 Mar 11 MOZART Piano Quartets With Katharine Gowers, Krzysztof Chorzelski & Adrian Brendel
    King's Place London
    More info  

    “For a quartet who cannot perform together that often they achieved a near-ideal unanimity of purpose. Mozart wrote only two piano quartets, which are highly contrasted works …. The questioning phrases in the middle of the E Flat’s opening movement reached out with unfettered yearning. The central turbulence of the G Minor’s first movement worked up an almost symphonic storm.”
    Financial Times, March 2011

  • 01 Jan 11 MOZART Piano Concertos CD Release Northern Sinfonia
    More info  

    “Given the many virtues of Imogen Cooper’s recordings of Mozart’s Piano Concertos Nos. 24 and 25…the commanding accounts of the two featured here come as no surprise. As in that previous release, she shines as a musician of taste, temperament and style consciousness.”
    International Record Review, January 2011

    “…the qualities that make Cooper quite simply one of the finest pianists this country has produced make her perfect for Mozart duty.”
    Gramophone, January 2011

    “With Cooper you have the undiluted essence of Mozart through and through – unique, universal and, in most cases, ultimately Utopian. Long may this series continue.”
    BBC Music Magazine, Christmas 2010

    “As always, her passagework is exquisite – impeccably even yet full of life, never mechanical …. The pianist and Northern Sinfonia are like one single, beautifully responsive entity”.
    Sunday Times, 14 November 2010

Repertoire

BARTOK Concerto No. 3

BEETHOVEN
Concerto No. 1 in C major Op. 15
Concerto No. 2 in B-flat major Op. 19
Concerto No. 3 in C minor Op. 37
Concerto No. 4 in G major Op 58
Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major Op. 73
Chorale Fantasy in C minor Op. 80

CHOPIN
Concerto No. 1 in E minor
Concerto No. 2 in F minor

HAYDN Concerto in D major

MOZART
Concerto No. 5 in D major K. 175
Concerto No. 9 in E-flat major K. 271
Concerto No. 12 in A major K. 414
Concerto No. 13 in C major K. 415
Concerto No. 14 in E-flat major K. 449
Concerto No. 15 in B-flat major K. 450
Concerto No. 16 in D major K. 451
Concerto No. 17 in G major K. 453
Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major K. 456
Concerto No. 19 in F major K. 459
Concerto No. 20 in D minor K. 466
Concerto No. 21 in C major K. 467
Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major K. 482
Concerto No. 23 in A major K. 488
Concerto No. 24 in C minor K. 491
Concerto No. 25 in C major K. 503
Concerto No. 26 in D major K. 537
Concerto No. 27 in B-flat major K. 595
Concerto No. 10 in E-flat major for 2 pianos K. 365
Concerto No. 7 in F major (2 piano version) K. 242
Rondo in A major K. 386

POULENC Concerto

RAVEL Concerto in G major

SCHUMANN
Concerto in A minor Op. 54
Introduction and Allegro appassionato Op. 92

Chandos

Imogen has recorded five discs with Chandos Records, the most recent was released in March 2017.

LISZT
Piano Transcriptions:
Deuxième Valse oubliée, S 215/2
Gretchen, S 513
Four Pieces from ‘Années de Pèlerinage, Deuxième Année: Italie’, S 161
Niages gris, S 199
La lugubre gondola I, S 200/1
Bagatelle sans tonalité, S 216a
WAGNER
Elegie, WWV 93
Einleitung zu ‘Tristan und Isolde’, WWV 90
Isoldens Liebestod aus ‘Tristan und Isolde’, S 447

Previous recordings feature works by Robert and Clara Schumann, Brahms and Chopin.

Music Trust

Imogen Cooper has established a Trust whose aim will be to enable young pianists to work with her in the countryside in peace and quiet.  She believes passionately that music lives longer in the ear and the spirit if unviolated over a period of time by extraneous noises, and that a deeper level of discovery becomes possible; she has experienced this many times and it is unforgettable.

Imogen would like to give back to a younger generation the generosity of time that Alfred Brendel and others gave to her. To date, Pavel Kolesnikov, Lara Melda, Mishka Momen, Samson Tsoy and Alexandra Vaduva have all been scholarship holders.

For more information please contact imogencoopermusictrust@gmail.com.

Interview here.

Brochure on the Trust here.