Currently making her long overdue return to Australia, the English pianist talks Brahms, Schumann and touring.

Clara Schumann was so fond of Brahms’ string sextet that he made her a piano arrangement. Imogen Cooper had to battle her own sense of trepidation before she decided it would be permissible to tackle the piano transcription.

“Because I adore the string sextet, I was in two minds about taking it up,” she explains. “But the piece is so beautiful that it the end I couldn’t resist.”

And there the trepidation ended. Cooper compared Brahms’ piano reduction with his sextet and made a few improvements of her own.

“Strangely, Brahms simplified one or two things; he took out some absolutely salient harmonies or chord spacings. I can’t believe it was to protect Clara in any way, because she was a fabulous pianist. Maybe he just did it in a hurry. Anyway, I put them back; I hope he doesn’t mind. I think my version sounds better, if I may say so.”

Still, Cooper retained enough anxiety about her right to perform the piece that she was flooded with relief when a member of the Belcea Quartet voiced his approval.

“He said he didn’t miss the strings...