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Birthday Concerts

John McCabe @ 70 and Imogen Cooper's 60th

Haydn Variations in F minor for piano
McCabe The Woman by the Sea
Haydn String Quartet in D, Op 76 No 5
Weelkes As Vesta was from Latmos Hill
McCabe Cartography
Tallis Te lucis ante terminum I
McCabe The Lily-white Rose [world première]
Tallis Te lucis ante terminum II
Byrd Civitas sancti tui
McCabe Scenes in America deserta

John McCabe
Sacconi Quartet
The King's Singers

Cadogan Hall 24 September 2009


Mendelssohn Ich wollt', meine Liebe ergosse sich, Abschiedslied der Zugvogel, Gruss, Wasserfahrt
Schubert An die Laute, Abendstern, Dass sie hier gewesen, Die Sterne
Clara Schumann o Lust, 0 Lust; Die stille Lotosblume
Robert Schumann Lieder aus dem Schenkenbuch im Divan I & II; Venezianische Lieder I & II
Schumann Stucke im Volkston Nos. 2 and 3
Janacek Pohadka-
Schubert Auf dem Strom; Fantasy in F minor for piano duet

Imogen Cooper piano
Mark Padmore tenor
Wolfgang Holzmair baritone
Sonia Wieder-Atherton cello
Paul Lewis piano

Wigmore Hall, September 28 2009

Concert life is dominated by centenaries, anniversaries etc which serve to give brief re-exposure to older music that may have fallen from attention. Birthday concerts provide interesting programming opportunities, but sometimes the promise on paper is disappointed in the event.

Thus, Haydn's Variations in F minor looked to be a perfect starter for JohnMcCabe, and Schubert's Fantasy in F minor duet, with the admired Paul Lewis surely a delectable finisher for Imogen Cooper, but neither fulfilled hopes and expectations.

McCabe played the Haydn in so straight and austere a manner that it got lost in the sparsely filled expanses of Cadogan Hall, and in the packed Wigmore Hall the Schubert duet overstayed the welcome of its delightful beginning, which always brings to mind Barbarina's lost pin... The over-bright toning of the Steinway's treble didn't help, and the whole performance felt overlong and too heavy; better a dedicated duo such as Tong & Hasegawa (reviewed recently) who also play a Steinway but subtly moderate its power.

In the McCabe concert the Sacconi Quartet did better by Haydn, but The Woman by the Sea proved a dour offering to represent McCabe's own huge output. Far better were the six The King's Singers' in a selection of his vocal music; The Lily-white Rose a pleasing little world première (given twice), the masterly Cartography and Scenes in America deserta [to be seen on their splendid DVD Signum Vision SIGDVD005] worthy of wide dissemination, and lifting the concert to a fine conclusion, with the audience invited to stay and share John's birthday cake...

Cooper's event was more complicated, with a series of invited partners. The two singers failed to make much of a case for Mendelssohn duets, but each was successful, in totally different manner, in lieder by Schubert and the Schumanns husband and wife. Padmore is a more conventional lieder singer; Holzmair played to the audience successfully with extravagant gesture and body language, restricted in Auf dem Strom by his needing to hold the score.

That fine cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton, remembered from a splendid event at Strasbourg*, but rarely heard in UK, impressed in Schumann and Janacek.

Imogen Cooper played throughout the evening, accompanying her chosen artist friends sympathetically, but hopefully the BBC, which recorded this concert for future broadcasting, will edit out the sound of her unfortunate tendency to take off the pedal clumsily at many quiet endings. Best of all, though, was Imogen's only solo, an unscheduled extra, a 'pre-encore' to start the evening - a splendid pot-pourri of R Strauss opera tunes despatched with charm and virtuosity. At the end, the actual encore was a Brahms Liebeslieder waltz which had everyone on stage.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See Anne Ozorio's appreciation of Imogen Cooper in Opera Today [Editor]

*- - a virtuoso cellist with a mind of her own - - just the sort of event which makes visiting festivals abroad so rewarding. From Aleppo to Seville brought a full, enthusiastic house to enjoy her journey around the Mediterranean, traditional Egyptian, Turkish and Syrian music, Monteverdi and Granados as a frame for recent commissions from Dusapin, Aperghis and Fedele - a heady brew indeed; just right for a CD, which should be considered by an enterprising, innovative company.