> Medtner Piano Concerto [AB]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)






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Nikolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Piano Concerto No. 2 Opus 50 (1927)
Piano Concerto No. 3 Opus 60 (1944)
Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra/Jerzy Maksymiuk
Rec. Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, November 1991
HYPERION CDA 66580 [74.14]


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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?).


Arthur Baker

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