Imogen Cooper on her Wigmore Hall programme and Julian Anderson’s She Hears

This Saturday, Imogen Cooper returns to Wigmore Hall to present a recital of works by Beethoven, Haydn, Julian Anderson and Liszt. Below, she offers her insight into the programme, including her unique connection to Julian Anderson’s She Hears.

The programme

BEETHOVEN 6 Bagatelles Op. 126
HAYDN Piano Sonata in E-flat major HXVI:52
HAYDN Variations in F minor HXVII:6
LISTZ Bagatelle sans tonalité S216a
BEETHOVEN 15 Variations and a Fugue on an Original Theme in E-flat major Eroica Variations Op. 35

“This programme is one of three that I am performing [at Wigmore Hall] this season, all based on big Beethoven works as well as the three sets of Bagatelles, major Haydn sonatas, and a short contemporary/contemporary sounding work. It has been wonderful building into this structure some short and seemingly unrelated works – thus Julian Anderson’s poetic She Hears is followed without a break by Liszt’s equally atonal Bagatelle, known also as Mephisto Waltz No. 4. The shock of the massively tonal E-flat major chord that opens the following Beethoven Eroica Variations is as great as if it too were atonal.

There is a strange continuity of keys too, not really calculated. In last December’s programme, there was a predominance of A-flat major/minor, to beautiful effect. In the last programme in the summer, there will be much C major, culminating in the great Diabelli Variations. This programme has a warm colour of E-flat major running through it.

Links are sometimes evident to us, sometimes not… Julian Anderson’s piece is full of resonance for me – let me tell you why…

She Hears is dedicated to Imogen Holst. Julian says of the piece – ‘it is a study in listening. The title refers to an inscription Oskar Kokoschka placed on the back of a painting of King David he gave to Imogen Holst: ‘For Imogen – she hears’. Listening is a somewhat underestimated activity. Everyone who knew Imogen Holst remarked upon her specially focused intensity when listening to music. This piece provides a very focused musical surface for both player and listener – a chord progression which unfolds gradually but continuously from start to finish..’ For me, the link goes further. I have in my house a painting made by a student of Kokoschka’s, of a young woman called Anna Kallin, who was Kokoschka’s lover. In her old age, she was a close friend of my father’s, and she gave this painting to him, saying that I looked like her. No particular logical connection with She Hears, but for me such links of the soul, or whatever we may call it, are more important than any other.”

Imogen performs at Wigmore Hall on Saturday 17 March. More information can be found on the hall’s website. She then returns for her third Wigmore recital of the season on 26 June, with a programme of Beethoven, Haydn and Schoenberg.

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