with considerable control and command of the idiom this is
a more than useful debut disc by British pianist Martin Cousin.
The choice to take on the D minor sonata was canny, in that
it tends to be less well regarded than it might be and less
widely performed as well. And it tends to be a work of which
the difficulties involved in its taming are held in direct
ratio to its impact in performance. With a well considered
view of its difficulties and a powerful technique to put
those ideas into practice the sonata can sound as it does
here, powerfully argued, full of rhetoric, itís true, but
also thoroughly imaginative.
takes a lean and hungry view. His playing has a fine sense
of the workís linearity and he is loath to sacrifice its
structure to incidental felicities. His chordal playing springs
out of the speakers, crisp, even, powerful without ever forcing
tone. Then in the first movement he also captures a withdrawn
bronzed tone that is equally admirable. His left hand is
no mere accomplice too Ė he actively brings out shading throughout.
In the slow movement I was reminded more than once of the
Vocalise Ė as Cousinís evocative playing brings out lines
and motifs with discretion and imagination. The finale has
plenty of power and confidence; itís not a daredevil take
on it, but thereís still a commanding control and not least
a sensitive exploration of those little moments of lyric
reprieve. I liked the way Cousin varied the tone colours
in his chordal playing. Itís not the only way to approach
the sonata but on its own terms itís an especially successful
The Op.10 Morceaux de Salon
offer more microscopic pleasures than are on offer in the
big sonata. Some will remember the Barcarolle and Humoresque
from Horowitzís recordings though equally others will remember
the composerís own recordings of these two pieces. We find
that throughout Cousin strikes a good balance between aristocratic
finesse and avuncular interjection. His Nocturne is nicely
nuanced and whilst he lacks Rachmaninovís caprice and devilish
rubati in the Barcarolle, he remains commendably straight
without ever becoming dull. Similarly Cousinís Humoresque
is soft-grained and pliable, good natured and drenched in
sangfroid. By contrast the composer has a whiff of the sulphurous
about him, with an acerbic tone and a fistful of grotesquerie.
Composer-performers do tend to be sui generis.
recording is a touch dry and that prevents a full blossoming
of sound. But it doesnít limit oneís admiration for much
of this recital.