Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
Keyboard Sonatas: in C,
, Hob XVI:49;
Hob XVI: 52.
Variations: in G
on “Gott erhalte den Kaiser”;
Gary Cooper (fp)
CHANNEL 26509 (Hybrid multichannel SACD: 77:51)
Cooper was last heard from as a conductor of Haydn symphonies (
32: 6), which was my introduction to him. He is something of a musical polymath and seemingly the busiest musician on the planet. He has a vast discography as pianist, harpsichordist, organist, vocal accompanist, duo partner, and conductor; arkivmusic.com lists 31 discs of 33 composers on 13 labels. He is director of several period-instrument ensembles, appearing often in concert and in opera. He tours worldwide (the U.K., Canada, the U.S., Holland, Germany, Spain, Japan, Chile) as a soloist and as partner in a violin/piano duo, plus gigs with other chamber ensembles. He also teaches at three (or more) universities. Judging by his photos, he may not yet be 30; his performing credits go back to 1992. And this is just one Gary Cooper, not the movie star or the Canadian guitarist/songwriter.
Cooper’s instrument is identified as an anonymous, c. 1785 Viennese piano, and he refers to it as “this fine 1785 Viennese piano” in his extensive, fascinating notes. It does have much of the character of a 19th-century piano, including a rock-solid low octave and an unusually bright ring for a fortepiano. He also discusses “a late C18th tuning with which Haydn . . . would have been totally familiar,” and suggests moments when “the listener’s attention may well be drawn to this temperament.”
His playing suggests deep study of these works and of their era, as well as unlimited manual dexterity. A strong characteristic is an almost phrase-by-phrase approach to tempos and dynamics. If your taste runs to performances that set a consistent plan and stay with it throughout, this will not be the disc for you. I find Cooper’s way convincing; every phrase, even every note, enlivens the music and suits his view of these works. Halfway through the Adagio e cantabile movement of No. 49, he suddenly plunges into Beethoven’s world with his left hand, which makes his eventual return to delicacy all the more effective. I have never been so entranced by the movement. Tempos are generally slow throughout, although Cooper will often surge forward. He can caress a phrase without violating any period shibboleth. Above all, these performances have constant life and—despite all that variety—momentum.
The three sonatas are a total success. The Variations in G, Haydn’s own arrangement of the slow movement of the “Emperor” Quartet, is interesting to hear at least once. In the great F-Minor Variations, I do find Cooper’s playing a bit fussy, probably because I was captured forever by a wonderful slow, steady performance by John Buttrick on a long-gone Jecklin-Disco CD (it’s expensive on Amazon; try the Swiss label’s Web site). Channel Classics’s recorded sound is perfection, on CD or SACD. On the evidence of the two Cooper CDs I have heard, he has already become a favorite musician.
FANFARE: James H. North
Works on This Recording
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