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Imogen Cooper’s most recent Schumann disc comprises music solely by Robert (previous instalments on this label have coupled his music with that of his wife, Clara, or by Brahms). Cooper remains one of the sovereign pianists: everything she touches exudes integrity, the highest understanding coupled with a melting beauty of sound. Witness the superb articulation within a perfectly Schumannesque soundworld of the opening F-sharp minor Novelette, and the amazing sense of rightness. Cooper projects the form perfectly, and her way with the Innigkeit side of the Davidsbündlertänze is worth the price of the disc alone: within the space of three minutes, Book I No 3 traverses universes, while the Zart und singend fifth movement of Book II is a true Romantic outpouring.

The wonderfully turbulent D major Novelette is the perfect separator between that and the Abegg Variations. Juxtaposing this early work, despatched with the utmost taste, with Schumann’s last piano work, the Geistervariationen, reminds us of Schumann’s remarkable journey in life and in music.

All this is caught in demonstration-standard sound (Snape Maltings). Production standards are absolutely up to Chandos’ high standards; Nicholas Marston brings scholarly expertise to the booklet note, and Imogen Cooper herself provides a short essay. Stunning, from all angles.

COLIN CLARKE Read the full review on Agora Classica

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