Gramophone Editors Choice
This release inaugurated a new series with the Northern Sinfonia with the first commercial recording to be made at the spectacular Sage Gateshead, the landmark waterfront venue on Tyneside. In residence at the Sage Gateshead since its opening in 2004, the award-winning Northern Sinfonia’s dynamic approach to programmes, performances and recordings have earned them plaudits aplenty. The poetic pianist Imogen Cooper has a close association with Northern Sinfonia and the Sage Gateshead, having chosen the Steinway piano for the venue which she performs on this live recording.
“Imogen Cooper's strongly projected, stylistically sensitive performance stands up even alongside such distinguished modern versions as Uchida, Brendel and Schiff. With crystalline articulation and an exhilarating range of colour and dynamics, Cooper never lets you forget that the so-called Jeunehomme (K271) is a concerto of radical extremes, both within and between movements.
In the opening Allegro especially admirable is her vocal lyricism in the 'second subject', her powerfully directed passagework and the impassioned sweep of the wonderful modulating sequences near the start of the recapitulation.
Some may feel she lingers overly in the C minor Andantino, though she always balances expressive rubato with an eloquent feeling for the long line. She conjures a new forlorn bleakness in the quasi-operatic recitatives towards the end, and rightly makes the cadenza the emotional climax of the movement. Despite odd moments of slack ensemble, the Northern Sinfonia play with style and verve.
Cooper is equally responsive to the radiant, wistful and (in the Adagio) elegiac lyricism of K488. Again she illuminates, vividly, affectionately, yet with no hint of sentimentality, the music's shifting moods and colours while maintaining a strong melodic flow. When the main theme of the Adagio returns, after the serenading grace of the brief A major episode (beautifully realised here), she enhances its pathos with delicately expressive embellishments. After this, the airborne finale keeps elegance and animal spirits in ideal balance. Anyone who wants this particular coupling will find Cooper and the Northern Sinfonia (wonderfully tangy clarinets, incidentally, in K488) among the subtlest, liveliest and most probing of Mozartians.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide