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Glazunov: Piano Sonatas Nos. 1 & 2 – Liadov: Variations on a Polish Folk Theme – Arensky: 6 Caprices

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Catalogue No: SOMMCD 0100
Release Date: 07/01/2010
Number of Discs: 1
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Martin Cousin’s new CD, his second recording in SOMM’s “New Horizons” series, serves to remind us of his spectacular pianistic talent and charismatic playing.

Martin Cousin – Piano

Following his début recording of Rachmaninov’s First Piano Sonata (SOMMCD 048 – March 2006) which garnered wonderful reviews, Martin revels once again in early 20th-century Russian romanticism, which highlights his pianistic skills as well as his understanding of colour and structure.

Cousin is now regarded as one of the most exceptional pianists of his generation. With the award of 1st prize at the 2005 Ettore Pozzoli International Piano Competition (Seregno, Italy) and Gold Medal at the 2003 Royal Over-Seas League Music Competition (London) he joins the ranks of such illustrious predecessors as Maurizio Pollini, Geoffrey Parsons, Jacqueline Du Pré and John Lill.
Martin has appeared regularly in major British musical venues since graduating from the Royal College of Music, making his London solo début at the Purcell Room in 1998 to great critical acclaim.   Numerous solo recitals followed, notably at the Wigmore Hall in 2001 and 2005.
He has performed as concerto soloist with the London Philharmonic, the Hallé, Royal Philharmonic and BBC Concert Orchestras.Performances further afield have included tours of New Zealand, the US, Indonesia and Thailand, concerts in Stockholm, Brussels, Toronto, Tokyo, Berne and The Hague together with numerous recitals throughout Italy.
Highlights of the last two seasons have included Tchaikovsky’s 1st Concerto at Bridgewater Hall and Symphony Hall, Gershwin’s Concerto in F at the Adrian Boult Hall and the European premiere of Terry Mann’s ‘No Ordinary Piano Suite’ at the Purcell Room.

2006 saw the release of his debut CD of Rachmaninov’s Sonata No 1 and Morceaux de Salon with SOMM Recordings, which was selected as Classical CD of the week by the Daily Telegraph, with Geoffrey Norris stating that, “Martin Cousin’s debut disc establishes a striking new benchmark for the interpretation of Rachmaninov’s 1st Piano Sonata ….. has discretion, judgment, perception and formidable technique.”

Robert A. Kaplan writing for the US magazine Fanfare added, “This is dead-serious music that refuses to make the typical virtuoso-type concessions to the audience, while at the same time being fantastically difficult for the pianist. The difficulties are as much musical as they are technical.

…Even in such distinguished company such as Howard Shelley (Hyperion), Ruth Laredo (Sony) and Santiago Rodriguez (Elan), Cousin stands alone. His is the broadest of these readings, each of his outer movements lasting about a minute longer than Shelley’s, but this is no cop-out; the tempo relationships throughout make perfect sense. And he has not only the power to play the massive, orchestrally scaled climaxes, but also the ability to play a beautiful pianissimo, plus the uncanny control – and the musical comprehension – to bring out the ubiquitous inner lines that Rachmaninoff calls for. This is the performance of the First Sonata that I have always heard in my head, but never thought I’d actually get to hear with my ears. This guy is the real deal.”

A pianist well worth discovering.” International Record Review

Martin Cousin… a master in the art of the tapered phrase, the dying fall and the precisely weighted texture.”  The Times

Born in 1865 in St. Petersburg, Alexander Glazunov was a leading Russian composer of the generation after Tchaikovsky. Doubtless owing to his exceptional mastery of and attentiveness to form, exemplified by his exceptional grasp of counterpoint, he is considered as a Romantic Classicist akin to Brahms, especially since he remained faithful to a traditional 19th century musical idiom. He became a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov at the age of 15, writing his First Symphony by the age of 16!  In fact, his symphony, premiered by Balakirev in 1882 established him practically overnight as a great Russian composer. He absorbed many musical influences, particularly those of Liszt whom he met in Weimar in 1884, and Wagner. Quite apart from his international fame as a symphonist, he also composed ballets, and concertos for various instruments. He became Head of the St. Petersburg Conservatory counting Shostakovich among his pupils, and continued composing until the end of his life, in 1936. He was accused of composing music which was too Western and not Russian enough. However, while his music is more cosmopolitan than nationalistic in style, it also embodies the unmistakable emotional and spiritual qualities which we all recognise as Russian.

The two Piano Sonatas on this disc were composed in tandem in 1901, in a style of writing characteristic of the highly perfumed and ornate romanticism of the 19th century reminiscent of Grieg, Mendelssohn and Chopin. It covers the entire range of the keyboard, and for a composer more generally renowned for his gifts as an orchestrator, it is deftly idiomatic.
Anatoly Liadov (1855-1914) is alas, remembered more for his indolence than for his clearly original talent which produced orchestral tone poems such as Baba-Yaga, The Enchanted Lake and Kikimora. Apparently part of the reason for his writer’s block was a lack of self-confience, a trait which led him to appropriate pre-existing material and mould it to his own ends. The true essence of his Variations on a Polish Folk Theme lies in the richness of his pianistic colours which by turns, recall to mind the style of Brahms, Schumann or Chopin.

Anton Arensky (1861-1906) the third composer on this disc, was also a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatoire from which he graduated in 1882, becoming a professor at the Moscow Conservatoire. Among his composition students were Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Gretchaninov.  He was greatly influenced by the music of Tchaikovsky. He retired far too early, at the age of 40, drinking and gambling away his pension until his death from tuberculosis. He is chiefly remembered today for his piano miniatures, and the Six Caprices are perfect examples of his work. Dedicated to Alexandre Siloti, they are charmingly Schumannesque, dancing, rippling and ruminative by turns.

On This Recording

  1. Piano Sonata No. 1: I. Allegro moderato
  2. Piano Sonata No. 1: II. Andante
  3. Piano Sonata No. 1: III. Finale: Allegro scherzando
  4. Piano Sonata No. 2: I. Moderato
  5. Piano Sonata No. 2: II. Scherzo: Allegretto
  6. Piano Sonata No. 2: III. Finale: Allegro moderato
  7. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Theme: Moderato
  8. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 1: Allegretto
  9. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 2: Scherzando
  10. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 3: Andante
  11. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 4: Allegretto
  12. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 5: Veloce
  13. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 6: Andante pastorale
  14. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 7: Allegro con fuoco
  15. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 8: Andantino
  16. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 9: Soave
  17. Variations on a Polish Folk Theme: Variation 10: Moderato – Coda
  18. 6 Caprices: No. 1. Allegro molto
  19. 6 Caprices: No. 2. Vivace
  20. 6 Caprices: No. 3. Andante sostenuto
  21. 6 Caprices: No. 4. Allegro
  22. 6 Caprices: No. 5. Andantino
  23. 6 Caprices: No. 6. Allegro moderato