Q&A with Imogen Cooper

Leading from the keyboard, Imogen Cooper will breathe life into two of Mozart’s exquisite keyboard creations, Piano Concertos Nos. 17 and 24, this week on May 7 & 9, 2015. Tickets and more information.

Mozart is a large portion of your repertoire, what is it about this music that keeps you coming back? 

The sheer perfection and beauty of this body of work brings me back time and time again. Mozart expresses everything that matters in life —the human, the spiritual —and all with a perfection of craft which is breathtaking. Every section of the orchestra matters, not just the soloist. Every line you follow has a cogent life of its own, they contrast and complement each other and form a miraculous whole. And there are so many good tunes!

For this program you’ll be performing as both piano soloist and conductor, what are the advantages of this kind of arrangement? 

Having direct contact with the musicians, with those people who are trying to make the best sounds, is a very rich experience. It involves a different form of responsibility, I would say, and a different quality of listening. 

It is scary because there is inevitably an element of getting your ducks in a row — good sight lines, who leads what and how, and there has to be huge energy generated from both the soloist and the concertmaster. These factors are usually taken care of by the conductor, but I feel the element of danger adds something — and it can be greatly exhilarating for everybody. 

The two piano concertos on this program, Nos. 17 and 24, were only written two years apart from each other, do they sound very similar or very different? 

Completely different! And this is why I chose them. 

No. 17 in G major, K. 453, is like the advent of spring — how appropriate in this beautiful weather! — and radiant and witty too, albeit with an extremely serioso slow movement that is operatic, dramatic and very profound. It was the first concerto I ever played, and although I have often come back to it, it is only now that I realize what a miracle of composition it is, economic in means but just perfect. 

The great C minor K. 491, No. 24, is much more symphonic in composition; there is a larger woodwind band, which includes both oboes and clarinets, very rare in the Mozart concertos and producing a very particular sound. It is immensely complex, and its outer movements have a drive and an anxious darkness about them that are deeply unsettling.

What are you most looking forward to about visiting Seattle?

Being with the orchestra and experiencing your wonderful audiences! Seattle has a great reputation for enthusiastic and large audiences; that is not so common, and is always thrilling for a performer. I hope to find some great seafood too, and maybe a little glass of Washington or Oregon wine, which I love so much.

Posted on May 4, 2015