Over the years I have collected a range of fine performances of these inspirational works by Schubert by widely respected pianists. My previous favourite however has been the set called 'The last six years' also by Imogen Cooper. This was, and still is, a set of reference studio recordings spanning the same repertoire.
Now, some years later the BBC has recorded her 'live' at the South Bank Centre. Comparing the two sets has been instructive and has resulted in my passing the earlier set onto a friend and keeping this new set. Why? The answer is simply that the interpretations have miraculously deepened while also having an extra spontaneity that frequently accompanies live music making. In addition the performances are technically flawless, the recording is utterly faithful and the audience mercifully silent, clearly mesmerised I would imagine.
The total contents of these two discs are: sonatas 16, 17 and 20; the 3 Klavierstucke; the 11 Ecossaises.
Imogen Cooper's style is lyrically with plenty of detail brought out in terms of phrasing and accenting. Tempi are within the normal parameters but with a generally forward moving pace with rubato used sparingly. Interestingly, the effect of the rubato when used to slow the pace is to emphasise the overall forward nature of the playing rather than to produce a feeling of emotional overload and undue lingering.
I would therefore suggest that these peerless performances should figure highly on any list of desirable recordings of this repertoire. They would warrant serious consideration as both an 'only' purchase or as part of a collection. There are other fine performances available of this repertoire of course, but I would suggest that there are none finer and many not so fine.