Yu Kosuge’s new album ‘Wind’, is the pianist’s third album devoted to the four elements of nature. Water (Volume 1) and Fire (Volume 2) preceded on the Orchid Classics label.
This feels like a very personal project for 37-year-old Kosuge, who has a long, successful piano performing career behind her. It all started when she was four, when she was accepted on the Tokyo University of the Arts’s programme for gifted children.
Her CD cover to promote ‘Wind’ is intriguing. Clad in an oatmeal coloured, free-flowing shawl, and wearing very little make-up, her long dark hair lifting in the breeze, she resembles a female shaman.
Kosuge is quite evidently her own person, and I think, this translates into her play.
The first four offerings on her album are works from seventeenth-century composers who were inspired by nature and what a balm this early music is.
In Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772), Francois Couperin (1668-1733) and Jean-Phillippe Rameau (1683-1764) there is a fair amount of activity in both hands. In Daquin’s Le Coucou, for instance, the right hand’s circular progression depicts the wind blowing, while the left hand, repeatedly mimics the call of the cuc-koo, cuc-koo This demands control and concentration to make it appear effortless. Throughout this album, I was aware of the artist’s intense focus.
In Daquin’s Les Vents en Courroux, it was Kosuge’s virtuosity on display, as she covers every inch of the piano with her scales and arpeggios at breakneck speed. Meanwhile Rameau’s Le Rappel des Oiseaux’ /Chorus of Birds, filled with crisp, trilling ornamentations, was an absolute delight to listen to.
Lightness is replaced with power, with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op.31 No.2 Tempest. What impressed me so much with Kosuge here, is her strength and her complete control and independence of her two hands. It sounds almost trite to say this, because it is required of a professional – but she has the knack of getting the balance of volume and touch just right in the two hands.
Kosuge has made it her mission to work her way through Beethoven’s sonatas and concertos and her absolute confidence playing him, is of no surprise. The Largo-Allegro was quite brilliant on this recording, both taut and exciting.
Debussy’s impressionistic recording of nature also stands out on this album, notably, Voiles (Sails), where the ringing rubato chords, repeated over and over, so perfectly encapsulate the wind rippling through a boat’s sails.
I was unfamiliar with Leoš Janáček’s In the Mists (probably because he didn’t write many piano compositions). Here, Kosuge and composer, evoke the metaphorical mists of memory. When the mists disperse, the stifled emotion behind it, comes tumbling out in the Andante. The waterfall moment is Janáček’s grief for his daughter. She was only twenty-one when she died. At times heart-breaking, Janáček’s work in Kosuge’s hands is stunning from beginning to end.
A wonderfully cohesive project by Kosuge, who must be very exciting in performance. Highly recommended.
Yu Kosuge’s Four Elements Vol 3: Wind out on Orchid Classics. https://www.orchidclassics.com/releases/orc100158-yu-kosuge/