As a contemporary and countryman of Rachmaninoff, and likewise a virtuoso
pianist, Medtner is seen but dimly by us today. The answer probably lies
in the music, which generally takes a less impassioned view of things, and
melodic material is severer in manner. But in technical mastery of his romantic
language no weakness is evident, and I suspect that the all-too-common vicissitudes
of writing music and getting performances played a part in getting nowhere.
The second violin sonata sweeps along like a schooner under full sail
[listen - track 5, 10:55-11:35]. It has a manner
commanding respect for the certainty of presentation and development, and
the listener's musical instincts accept and enjoy - assuming he has some
feeling for this rich fare....
Generally his principal themes are a touch curious in effect, less obvious
than from a dyed-in-the-wool romanticist. I at first felt this as a possible
weakness - no intense romantic ardour - yet Medtner finds this a natural
ingredient in his way of putting material through development. By the end
of a good soaking in the sonata I was elated by the very quality of every
tiny part used in building the music into complete movements. Yes, at times
questions spring to mind, not really of weakness, just a touch of commonplace.
But each falls into place as the scheme becomes familiar.
When I got to
the the short pieces, I unwisely assumed them as fillers to get the record
up to a realistic duration for a CD. Not so. Medtner has a canny touch for
pieces 4-6 minutes in length [listen - track 12,
00:48-01:19]. The tunes are a better blend of melodic grace supported
by delicious twists of harmonic subtlety. A short piece intensifies the
All this would have drowned in a choppy sea if the players had lacked
understanding of the music. They play almost as one and display the music
superbly through its many moods and colours.
Copyright © 26 January 2000 by Basil
Ramsey, Eastwood, Essex, UK
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