Martin Cousin

Martin Cousin plays the Wigmore Hall, June 26th
1/11/14 - Stellar review of Martin's new disc in Fanfare Magazine
Read it below:
This is Martin Cousin’s third CD for Somm; I reviewed his earlier Rachmaninoff recording in Fanfare 30:2. Evidently his 2011 recital of music by Glazunov, Liadov, and Arensky was not received for review, but it was favorably received elsewhere. Based on the present disc and on the towering performance of the First Sonata on his debut CD, I am prepared to state that Cousin is among the most distinguished Rachmaninoff pianists of our generation.
The Études-Tableaux are difficult works both pianistically and musically. The first set was written in 1911, immediately following the op. 32 Preludes; the two works share many characteristics. The second set was written in 1916–17, and was the last work Rachmaninoff completed before leaving Russia for good. The unique title is suggestive, and in fact when Ottorino Respighi orchestrated five of the pieces in 1930, Rachmaninoff identified for him the artistic or literary works being evoked; he never published the descriptions, however, and did not encourage musicians or audiences to think of the works as “program music.” The music is more concentrated than that of the large-scale compositions that preceded op. 33, among them the First Sonata and the Second Symphony, and the harmonic language is more advanced.
Cousin’s account is consistently lucid and authoritative. He has plenty of technique, but is never showy; his attention to detail is meticulous, but never fussy. In op. 33/3 in C Minor his voicing is ideal; his runs in op. 33/6 (Eb Minor) are wonderfully even. His op. 33/9 (C Sharp Minor) is magisterial; here and in op. 39/5 (Eb Minor) he obtains a big sound without ever banging. His delineation of voices in op. 39/7 (C Minor) is superb.
Among other distinguished versions of these works, Cousin’s playing is more colorful than that of Howard Shelley (Hyperion) and more refined than that of Vladimir Ashkenazy (Decca). The sound of the Steinway D is sonorous and full. This is a winner in every way, a recording that is going directly onto my annual Want List. Let’s hope for more Rachmaninoff from Martin Cousin. Richard A. Kaplan

11/10/14 - BBC Music Magazine gives Martin's new disc 4 stars - 'Here he tackles the equally demanding sets of Études-Tableaux and demonstrates an impressive command of their huge technical challenges...Cousin performs reflective pieces such as the Moderato of Op.33 No.5 or the Lento assai Op.39 No.2 with great sensitivity.'

24/7/14 - Martin signs with Margaret Murphy Management

6/7/14 - Rachmaninov - Études-Tableaux: 5-star review in Observer - 'A landmark recording'

10/7/14 - Stunning review from Classical Source of Martin's new disc -
'Those who do not know these extraordinarily original masterpieces are strongly advised to buy this disc. There is none better.'

28/4/14 - New CD just released!

Martin's new CD of Rachmaninov's Études-Tableaux (complete) was released by SOMM Recordings on 28th April 2014.

With the award of a Gold Medal at the Royal Overseas League Music Competition and First Prize at the 2005 Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Compeition, Scottish pianist Martin Cousin joins the ranks of such illustrious predecessors a Maurizio Pollini, Geoffrey Parsons, Jacqueline Du Pré and John Lill. Recitals, festival appearances and concerto engagements have taken him all over the world.
In this, his third "Russian" disc for SOMM, he continues with Rachmaninov's complete Études-Tableaux, ideally suited to both his fearless technique and discerning musicianship.
Rachmaninov composed the op. 33 Études-Tableaux in the summer of 1911 just after completing his second set of Preludes Op. 32. They are compositionally more advanced than the Preludes and explore a variety of themes through modal harmonies, and different piano textures and sonorities. Written in 1916-17, the Op. 39 set are melodically more angular and harmonically astringent. They are perceived as a hidden set of variations on the plainchant Dies Irae, parts of the chant being quoted directly in each of the nine studies. They are extremely virtuosic, calling for unconventional hand positions and wide leaps for the fingers, features which place these works outside the scope of any but the most formidable virtuoso technique.

Listen to some audio clips here.

Wigmore Hall, Sunday, 26th June 2011

Martin played a programme of Viennese and Russian works, featuring music from his most recent disc, at the Wigmore Hall on 26th June 2011.

Read the review from Musical Opinion below:


Beethoven, Sonata in G Op.31 No. 1
Brahms, Klavierstucke Op.76
Liadov, Variations on a Polish Theme
Glazunov, Sonata No.1 in B flat minor op.74

Wigmore Hall, Sunday, 26th June 2011 at 7.30pm.

British pianist MARTIN COUSIN performs
Beethoven, Brahms, Glazunov.

A couple of SOMM CDs under his belt - which I hope to review, and now this wonderful Wigmore Hall recital. Look at the printed programme, and you learn much more – Two major competitions: First Prize, 2005, Ettore Pozzoli International Piano (Seregno, Italy) and Gold Medal, 2003 Royal Over-Seas League Music (London). Numerous appearances with world orchestras also underline his claim to fame, while in 2009, Trinity Guildhall Exams invited him to record the Grade 6-8 violin and piano syllabus (2010-2015) with the highly versatile Andrew Haveron. I have yet to hear him with the Aquinas Piano Trio, for which he is a founder member.

This was one of those occasions where I was able to move forward in the hall, to both watch and hear him perform. A very strong command of the keyboard, clearly showed that his instrumental technique was very much at the service of the music. Not only that, but his relaxed posture was finely balanced to his powerful build. It was just as if the music had switched on a mechanism that allowed him to sense correct pulse and nuance which, synchronized with beauty of touch, provided him with the means of expressing exactly what he desired from the printed scores – in this instance, on the piano stand before him!

As my colleague Noretta Conci agreed: this was a performance of Beethoven’s Sonata in G major, Op.31, No.1 of which any pianist would have been proud. Even the quality of the silences shone through. Typical of its composer, this was his new trend in compositional technique. Allegro vivace 2/4 takes us into a world of fleeting 16th phrases, darting staccati, with constant motivation and syncopations in all directions. There is absolutely no respite. In comparison, the Adagio grazioso second movement requires total control of  singing tone, with elaborate demi-semiquaver groupings decorating the reply motives. One has here a picture of a composer  acknowledging his ardent feelings. Apparently, he is granted his wish, for the Rondo Allegretto Finale suggests pleasure in contentment, as he serenade his ‘mysterious’ loved one with sustained passion. Oh, such bliss!

If  the rather morbid visaged Beethoven could write such delectable music, Brahms, the eternal coffee maker was at the start of his introspective mid period with Acht Klavierstucke, Op.76. 4 Capricci and the same number of Intermezzi - one has to achieve a sense of diversity and compactness in uniformity, particularly in the left hand. Perhaps, this is the composer at his most complex and cussed, Having heard Vesselin Stanev try his hand, Martin Cousin brought out greater feelings for colours. Commencing with Capriccio in F sharp minor, Un poco agitato. No.2 is another – this time in B minor, Allegretto non troppo, where every pianist limbers up. Feelings of spaciousness arrive in No.3. Intermezzo, Grazioso in A flat major; and in No.4. Intermezzo in B flat major, the Allegretto Grazioso marking is spread over the first and reply figures. We suddenly ‘rev up’ the tempo, Agitato, ma non troppo presto in No. 5 - Capriccio in C sharp minor, is one of those flowing Brahmsian themes with its sustained, interlinked octaves. No.6. Intermezzo in A major, Andante con moto, slightly slows the pace for some lovely legato phrasing, more in keeping with Op.117, at a later date, while the remaining Intermezzo - No.7 in A minor, Moderato semplice continues the composer’s melodic strain. Perhaps the most involved, is No. 8. Capriccio in C major, Grazioso ed un poco vivace. Brahms here is at his most autumnal, with long, soulful strands of melody and harmony that pacify the listener into a state of placid acceptance for better things.

How does one evaluate the two second half Russian rarities by Anatoly Liadov and Alexander Glazunov? Liadov, classified as  ‘Russia’s Lazy Bounder’, and the First of two ‘Gems’, from Martin Cousin, comes beautifully into the picture with  Variations on a Polish Folk Theme from 1901. A similar clarity of exposition, although nothing like the terse mockery of ‘Kikimora’ or ‘Baba Yaga’, is apparent in its close-knit unity and fluid writing, spread over ten contrasting sections. They are, indeed typical of a composer who really learnt from his mentor, Balakirev, Rather than be unfairly criticized, this is some of the  best instrumental music of the  ‘Mighty Five’ Russian National composers - exemplifying feelings for vibrant contrasts and seasonal flavours at the beginning of the 20th Century. Glazunov, rather than be remembered as a drunken sot, who tried to ruin Rachmaninov’s early symphonic reputation, is today famous for his Ballet music and 8 and a half Symphonies (the last remaining incomplete). I sense his tribute to J.S.Bach in Sonata No.1 in B flat minor, from the same year as  Liadov’s piece. A chromatic work of some minor genius, perhaps, where the left hand provides the melody and the right, the continuity of figuration. The performance was fabulous!