Medtner: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 3

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COMPOSERS: Medtner
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Medtner: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 3
WORKS: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 3
PERFORMER: Chloë Hanslip (violin), Igor Tchetuev (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA67963

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Medtner’s output is centred on the piano – yet he composed an important body of works for violin and piano, of which the most important component is the three Sonatas, two of which Chloë Hanslip and Igor Tchetuev offer on this recording.

Sonata No. 1 (1909-10) is a work of moderate dimensions in three movements (a Canzona, ‘Danza’ and ‘Ditirambo’) while No. 3, Sonata Epica (1938, though some of its ideas go back 40 years) is a huge four-movement canvas, certainly ‘epic’ in scale. Medtner seems incapable of putting down an idea without wanting to develop it, set it in motion, combine it with other things and see where it will take him. His sheer inventiveness is his biggest strength and weakness: so much happens in these works, there are comparatively few opportunities to stand back and draw breath – but when he’s in full flood, as especially in the Third Sonata, the effect is thrilling. It almost goes without saying that these Sonatas demand pianists and violinists of the first order, generously equipped with stamina and virtuoso technique; and yet the element of bravura display is always secondary to the evolving argument.

Chloë Hanslip and Igor Tchetuev certainly have the measure of these voluble and passionate yet always disciplined works, turning in performances of the first rank. The bubbling rhythmic liveliness of Hanslip’s playing in the fast movements never compromises beauty of tone. There are several other recordings of the First Sonata (one by Cecilia Hansen with Medtner himself at the piano), fewer of the Third (though Vadim Repin performs it in a Warner Classics box set); this is a very competitive new recording of both.

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Calum MacDonald