Friday, 23 March 2012

King's place

I refer of course to the King of Melody, Franz Schubert, and his place at the heart of our affections, particularly these nine days starting today, when his music (spirit indeed) will monopolise the Radio 3 schedule. I type this listening to Imogen Cooper playing the D major sonata D 850, relayed from a venue with nearly the same name as my heading. (I can't bring myself to type it because of my apostrophe fetish: I would only say, what an appropriate location the Grauniad chose a few years ago for its new offices.)

What is it that's so special about Imogen's playing? I guess it's the vulerability. Now, at double Schubert's age when his body gave up, her touch seems more tender than it once was - very much in tune with the inner world of a composer, who lives on.

During the concert interval this evening, we heard some spoken word about Schubert: the delightful brogue of that fine lieder singer Ailish Tynan contrasted with the quavering, only slightly accented voice of the 86-year-old Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, by whom I was first introduced to the intensity of Schubert's music. And then Imogen's own voice, as always so warm, and full of love for her (and our) hero, nay King.

Rehearsal photographs rarely flatter the artist: this one taken in the Pittville Pump Room in 2003 is no exception, but it conveys something of the whole-body concentration that Imogen brings to her always memorable performances. As Alan Rushbridger wrote in 2009, "Long may her moment in the sun last."

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