Medtner was once known as "The Russian Brahms",
this however is misleading and his style is firmly entrenched in the
late Romantic tradition; accordingly he is clearly eligible for inclusion
in this series of "The Romantic Piano Concerto". His style
is probably most comparable to that of Rachmaninov and ultimately derives
mainly from Chopin and Liszt with a soupçon of Scriabin. Often
touches of modernity add spice to this attractive romantic music.
The Second Piano Concerto was first performed in 1927
in Moscow and Medtner dedicated it to Rachmaninov who in turn inscribed
his Fourth Piano Concerto to him. The work bears a strong resemblance
to Rachmaninov’s Third Concerto but has characteristic syncopation and
changes of direction which must make the piece hell to play. However
its difficulties seem to present no problems to Demidenko who plays
like a man inspired. The BBC Scottish Orchestra however does not sound
quite so at ease with the work.
In the winter of 1935-6, Medtner settled in England.
His Third Concerto was first performed in 1944 with Medtner playing
alongside Boult’s conducting – this was the last year in which Medtner,
who was a brilliant pianist, played in public although he continued
to make recordings up to his death in 1951. This concerto, or ‘Concerto-Ballade’
is more concentrated than the second concerto; its three movements are
played without a break. Again it is written in a free form with many
changes in tempo and mood.
Demidenko seems even more inspired in this last concerto
with playing going from extremes of vigour to poetic beauty; a most
impressive performance. It is exceptionally well recorded with Tony
Faulkner, the recording engineer, achieving a natural sound picture.
The disc is well presented with excellent
notes by Ateş Orga and Nikolai Demidenko.
Although Medtner’s music seldom appears on the concert
platform, there are at least two further modern recordings. I have not
heard these but I doubt whether Demidenko’s version will be surpassed
(it would also be very interesting to hear good modern re-issues of
Medtner’s own versions – a job for Mike Dutton?).
the Romantic Piano Concerto page