| 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
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
original masterpieces are strongly advised to buy this disc. There is
- 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
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
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!