Jane Coop Mooredale Concert reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Sunday, March 20, 2011. Walter Hall, Toronto.

Jane Coop is without hesitation. She sits down and without a pause begins playing Beethoven’s charming Sonata in E major, Op. 14.1. Her phrasings in the lively opening theme are deftly carved and smoothly tapered, bringing out the flow of melody and the gnarly turns of the chords her left hand repeats. There is a nervous energy to her playing which produces highly contrasted dynamics, crisp, brightly coloured, somewhat hard-edged lines and colours. The Scherzo that follows functions as a slow movement, but Ms. Coop maintains a tense high-contrast mood that she relaxes towards the end, but resumes again in the final Rondo Allegro.

Her account of Beethoven’s 15 (Eroica) Variations and Fugue in Eb major, Op. 35 is interesting. Ms. Coop’s ‘Introduction’ is exploratory, as if she is curious about how this thing works. The first variation is faster in tempo: she plays it freely and quite forcefully—in the high-contrast manner of the earlier Sonata. Towards the middle of the work, the variations soften—seeming romantic in the way of young love, and from there develop, through highly chromatic passages, a wistful, almost melancholic absorption. The concluding Fugue restores her idea of Beethoven’s dominant, controlling energy.

Ms. Coop’s Scriabin, in this recital, is very different from her Beethoven. Scriabin’s music has a heavy obsessive, ‘ostinato’ element, to which it seems Ms. Coop responds by relaxing into a delicate lyricism that becomes almost impressionistic in the second Etude, though nervous tension and contrast reappear in the third.

She keeps Scriabin’s Sonata No. 3 in F# minor, Op. 23 surprisingly and pleasingly in the middle of her dynamic range, soft pedaling the two-note descending left hand figure on which the entire work is threaded. There is a dire force in the second movement that she drives down into a open, spacey area where it is allowed to float. The third movement is her best, with some lovely summery musings that flow seamlessly into the return of the obsessive ostinato¬† that thunders darkly as the work slides presto towards the Finale’s abrupt end.

There is a consistent thread of intelligence in Ms. Coop’s reading of Beethoven and Scriabin that she maintained in the gentle Chopin Mazurka of her encore.

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