This cleverly programmed recital focuses on
the year 1901. This was the year that Glazunov, in a burst of
creativity, finished both sonatas, and when Liadov composed his
Both Glazunov sonatas can sprawl and tend to work best when tightly reined. That noted, there are other approaches and Martin Cousins would seem, on the evidence of this disc, to prefer to marry a broader sense of structure with considerable reserves of refined poetry. The results are invariably effective and highly attractive, though listeners used to other approaches may clamour for a greater sense of drive; I think this is most apparent in the finale of No.2, where I feel Cousins is rather too relaxed. But one should first note the lyricism and highly developed sense of filigree cultivated in the first movement of the first sonata, a work that occasionally flirts with perfumery, and also the rich chording and romantic aura of its central movement. Cousins evokes fine colouristic textures throughout and is resilient, cogent and confident in the finale.
Similarly he catches the drifting patterns of the opening of the second sonata – one of Glazunov’s favourite ‘moderato’ movements. Unlike the romanticised eddies of the first sonata the second is more robust, more energetic, often indeed frisky. One appreciates, in the context, that Cousins prefers a more consonant view of the sonatas, but if one turns to Gilels in both his studio and live performance of this work, both of which I’ve reviewed here (review
), one finds an altogether more trenchant trajectory. True the fugal passage emerges as delightfully refined in Cousins’s hands but Gilels sweeps through things with real intensity and his is a more vitalising experience.
It was imaginative to have added Liadov’s delightful Variations on a Polish Folk Theme. This has moments of piety but also lashings of charm. Chopin and Schumann are also evoked. Cousins reserves real power for the more con fuoco
moments, and plays with finesse. So too in Arensky’s Six Caprices, dedicated to Siloti. Schumann, once again, is one of the motors of inspiration, one feels, and once more Cousins responds to the six little pieces with an engaging sense of characterisation.
With fine recorded sound – never too hard – this is a most useful disc, warmly played if, as intimated, sometimes lacking the ultimate in forcefulness.