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Piano on the South Bank

We hardly deserve an artist as intelligent and thoughtful as pianist Imogen Cooper. What a cultured recital she gave at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on this freezing December evening. Who else would start off with a whole half hour of unknown, to me anyway, Bartok Bagatelles (op 14) ? And encore at the end with one of his Four Dirges op 9; a perfect comment actually on the state of the world at the moment.


The evening proceeded via some beautiful Bach transcriptions, a Tom Adès fantasy on Dowland (prior to which the Hall was darkened while we listened to a recording of the original lute song) and Beethoven's op 110, with the soloist seemingly levitating above any possible technical difficulty. How wonderful to be able to reveal all that interesting music to others with such elegance and calmness.


This was a precious reminder of what a fitting and comfortable venue the QEH is for a recital of this kind, with a fine acoustic for the piano. And of next door, another very useful little hall, the Purcell Room. I must have attended some of the first performances in these venues during my teens in the late 1960s, and I'm always happy to return. But these days, it feels like classical events of this kind are fewer and further between. It's understandable given the vicious budget cuts which have impacted the Southbank Centre year by year for quite a while. On this evening, the rapt attention of a large audience demonstrated what an important musical site it still is for many of us.


Pictured - the QEH, peeking out behind some winter cheer on the South Bank of the River Thames.






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