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Nicolai MEDTNER (1880-1951)
Complete Solo Recordings of Nicolai Medtner - Volume 3

Canzona matinata Op.39/4  (c.1918-20) [4:25]
Sonata tragica in E Op.39/5 (c.1918-20)  [9:58]
Arabesque in A Op.7/2 (c.1904) [3:17]
Sonata-Ballada in F sharp Op.27 (c.1912-14) [22:58]
Hymn in Praise of Toil (Before Work) Op.49/1 (c.1926-27) [4:16]
Novelle in C Op.17/2 (1908) [4:25]
Märchen [Skazka] in D Op.51/1 (c.1928) [5:26]
Märchen [Skazka] in F Op.26/3 (c.1912) [2:16]
Primavera Op.39/3 (c.1918-20) [4:26]
Nicolai Medtner (piano)
rec. Studio 3 Abbey Road, London, 1947
APR 5548 [62:29]

This is the third volume of APR’s edition of the Medtner solo piano works played by the composer and the reviews of previous volumes can be seen here [volume 1 and volume 2]. It’s been available for some little time. This has been a series remarkable for the excellence of its presentation, transfers and documentation. One of the most superior of its qualities has been its propensity to dig up previously unpublished recordings and it does so again. 
Hymn in Praise of Toil, the Novelle in C Op.17/2 and Primavera Op.39/3 are all previously unpublished sides and therefore their appearance in the catalogues enriches the Medtner discography even further. They’re all in good estate as well and Bryan Crimp clearly worked hard – and successfully – with the surviving Primavera to present it as persuasively as this despite the fact that it apparently suffered some degradation.
The clarity and subtlety of Medtner’s playing is as captivating here as in the previous volumes. The personalised rubati he employs in the Canzona matinata vie with the galvanizing accelerandi for maximal interest. The passionate eloquence of the opening of the Sonata tragica is one thing but the torrid power is controlled with the most remarkable of rhythmic mechanisms And all the while Medtner piles on the colouristic dimensions to his music with prismic brilliance. Note too the crisp clear chording in the Sonata-Ballada, the most important work in the volume. The trills are electrically fast and the playing is truly an example of heroism in action.
There’s a little pitch instability in that unpublished Hymn in Praise of Toil but it won’t spoil your pleasure. There’s no other word but gorgeous to describe Medtner’s playing of the Skazka in F. As one has observed before about his playing the lyric parameters are invariably maintained, nuance and scale always observed, and he possesses a rhythmic mastery and a colouristic palette, that gives tremendous life to the miniatures. Obviously as well he gives a composer’s intent as to how his pieces should “go.”
All three volumes are essential fare for the Medtner collector, which I think goes without saying.  But the discs have a constituency far beyond that – they are profoundly important documents of a great executant-composer. Barrie Martyn’s annotations and the full recording details cap a vital series of discs.
Jonathan Woolf



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