Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

NICOLAI MEDTNER (1880-1951) The complete (14) piano sonatas (1901-37) Forgotten Melodies Opp. 39 and 40   Geoffrey Tozer (piano) recorded 1991, 1992, 1997, 1998 CD1 [74.50]  CD2 [76.50]  CD3 [77.15] CD4 [75.21] CHANDOS CHAN 9723 4 CDs £25.99



After years of drought we now, and blessedly, move into an era of plenty where fine performances of the music of Nicolai Medtner abound. What do we lack? The greatest omission is a complete set of the songs. This would be a natural for Hyperion (who already have various song cycles to their credit) or for Chandos who have already started the proces with one disc (Ludmilla Andrew - am, I the only one to recall her very fine Sibelius Luonnotar broadcast?).

The present cycle is the second complete set of Medtner piano sonatas. The first, reviewed by me last March, was Hyperion's Hamelin set. This included all 14 sonatas plus the two sets of Forgotten Melodies and Zwei Märchen. That set was very special.

What I have found in listening to the two sets, the Hyperion for more than six months, is that Medtner's art is supple and open to varying approaches. Deeply rewarding, disciplined music with a fine sense of melody and fantasy are in this case channelled into sonata-form. His German blood no doubt warmed to the discipline of the sonata although the fences are pretty widely cast.

Tozer's boundless energy in this enterprise (bear in mind his complete set of the piano concertos, and discs of the songs and violin sonatas - all on Chandos) coupled with a sensitive and fresh approach, which could not have been guaranteed in such a project, mark this set out as warmly rewarding.

The pianist's feeling for the music cannot be in doubt and communicates time and again in eloquence and fantastic spirit. This is heard to very best advantage in the Sonata-Triad (surely one of the wonders of Western music). Examples of Tozer's sense of pacing, halting and pressing forward, leap from each bar. He is lucid but not so analytical that ideas and textures are deconstructed. Medtner's introspection however does not mean somnolence and the storm (listen to the Sonata Minacciosa) can be unleashed just as convincingly as the spinning of a lyrical line.

The obvious question is which of the two almost identical sets (Hyperion or Chandos) you should opt for. Both are glowingly recorded. Both are well documented. The truth is that both are glowingly romantic documents brimming with pianism of the highest order. Neither has a single routine performance. Everything is put across as an 'event' in its own right. The choice comes down to personal taste. Tozer will appeal if you warm to the extremes of sensitivity and the gloriously just sense of pacing and flow. He always has 'le mot juste'. Hamelin's performances are somehow more dangerous and the sense of fantasy streams off the concentric circles of the disc in a starry torrent worthy of that fine illustrator Virgil Finlay.

Purchase of either of these sets is unlikely to leave you disappointed. The choice is yours. Either way you will be granted a seat at the edge of a dream.



Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

Reviews carry sales links
but you can also purchase


Return to Index