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Mixed Company®

Mixed Company is written by Saint Paul Sunday staff, giving you a behind-the-scenes look at the show and the classical music they love. We welcome your online comments.

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May 25, 2006


We met Imogen Cooper about 10 years ago when we asked other musician-friends, "Who should we working with that we don't know about?" They gave us some of her Schubert recordings to hear and we were struck by both her insights as a musician and her ability to communicate them to the listener. Her performances with us confirmed what we heard in the recordings and more importantly, they did for you as well. Her programs often received more listener notes than any other solo pianist.

Imogen is one of the most delightful people you'll ever meet, but I also admire her utter fearlessness. As a teen-ager she left her home in London to study in Paris with Alfred Brendel because she knew utterly that it was what she must do. And 10 years ago, she decided it was time to try some truly new repertoire (she's known for her performances from the classical period) and to commission a work from composer Thomas Adès. When you listen to the program, you’ll hear her tell the story of being greeted by friends who had seen the new composition after it was delivered but before she had seen it. They asked her "Would you like a stiff drink or a very stiff drink?" Adès writes music that is complex and mystical to the listener, but even more of a challenge to the musician. (Imogen deserved a "very stiff drink" the night she saw her new work). A pianist is used to playing from two staves of music (one for each hand); Adès' piece for Imogen often has five…and sometimes with different time markings in each staff. But that didn’t deter Imogen from taking it on, and in fact, she took four months off from regular performing to learn the work. In an age when we increasingly play it safe and when we rarely spend serious time learning something new, Imogen's love of adventure and commitment are a true inspiration.

Posted by Mary Lee at May 25, 2006 1:11 PM



I was very impressed with two features of Imogen Cooper's performance. One was the slow movement of the late Haydn sonata - very "romantic" in feeling and scope, it sounded to me much more like Beethoven than what I previously knew of Haydn. The other, of course, was Thomas Ades' "Choris." This was tremendously complex and interesting music, very similar in mood and structure to the music of one of my favorite modern composers, Leif Segerstam. (I don't think Segerstam is performed enough by others simply because of the extreme complexity and non-popularity of his works.) I was spellbound by it, and wished she had played more of it. Of "Kriesleriana," all I will say is that, to me, it's not one of Schumann's best works. But Cooper, though a small-scale, sensitive player, did it full justice.

By Lynn Bayley at May 29, 2006 7:28 AM