Review of A Gift by Gerard Cousins, Wales Music, 2008
Gerard Cousin is a British guitarist, classically trained, a graduate ofthe University of Leeds and Conservatorium Enschede (Netherlands), he has released four CDs, all made with his record company Galles Music. This is the second of the four, produced in 2008, entirely dedicated to contemporary music by Japanese, Cuban and British composers, plus two tracks (Elystan and July 18) by the same Cousins.
Japan is represented by the composer Takashi Yoshimatsu, author of two pieces, the first entitled “Wind Vector Color” (1991) it’s part of a larger sonata dedicated to the natural elements of wind, water and sky, and is divided into three parts. As Takemitsu, Yoshimatsu is mainly self-taught, I found some references about him in the book Yogaku by Luciana Galliano: “(he) interrupted the regular studies and devoted himself for a period of his life playing in rock bands, jazz and hogaku, until 1980, when he won a composition’s competition inaugurating a remarkable harvest of awards.” His second song is titled” Canticle “, inspired by the natural element of the Earth and also involves the use of religious overtones.
The song that gives the title to the cd, “A Gift”, comes from the discovery in the British composer Robert Jacob’s computers, of some fragments composed for solo guitar. One of them seemed complete and was entitled A Gift, is a score that features a jazz nature, as Cousins says in the booklet accompanying the CD: “the opening chords suggested Miles Davis.”
Another British composer present in the album is John Kenneth Tavener, a direct descendant of the composer and organist John Taverner. Man with a deep religiosity and interest in the mystical aspects of life, in this his Chant (1984), he explores melodic and lyrical’s instrument possibilities creating placid and quiet atmospheres.
Cuba. When you say Cuba in contemporary guitar, we are obviously talking about Leo Brouwer, probably the greatest living composer for classical guitar. This record Cousins plays two of his pieces: the first “Viaje a la Semilla” (2000), whose title is taken from a short story with the same title by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier. In it, the protagonist’s life is reviewed as a progression from death to the cradle. The second passage is however the most famous Hika in Memorium Toru Takemitsu, dedicated to his memory and recall elements from several works by Japanese composer. Cousins plays this score as a kind of anticipation of the passage “Tune for Toru” by Mark-Anthony Turnage, British composer, mostly of orchestral music, he was also influenced by jazz, from Miles Davis in particular. His musical studies were with Oliver Knussen, John Lambert and later with Gunther Schuller. This song closes the cd.
If I had to sum up listening to this CD I would talk about calm, a sense of expectation, a different atmosphere that we are usually expecting from contemporary music’s record, yet at the same time interesting and engaging. Gerard Cousins offers to these compositions and their authors an excellent technique and a perfect control of the instrument, emphasizing the colors that classical guitar knows itself naturally create. I recommend this CD to those who don’t recognize themsleves the serial compositional or Darmstadt’s style.