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Glazunov: Piano Sonatas Nos 1 & 2 etc

Nikolay Medvedev (piano) (Quartz)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Piano Sonatas Nos 1 & 2; Three Miniatures for Piano
Nikolay Medvedev (piano)
Quartz QTZ 2150   61:25 mins


These days, one needs to check not so much recordings of Russian music but the provenance of the artist. Nikolay Medvedev set down his Glazunov interpretations in the Great Hall of Moscow’s Gnessin Academy weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, and according to his biography is still there. Unnecessary circumspection? Possibly, but if this heralded a truly exceptional pianist, it might be a different matter. These are what Shostakovich might disparagingly call mezzo-fortist performances of music that, true to Glazunovian form, is well-crafted and stylistically varied but not of the highest order. The one exception might be the Andante of the First Sonata, composed in 1901 at the height of the composer’s modest powers – a simple but affecting melody beautifully embroidered, with a more robust contrasting idea at the centre, à la Brahms.

Otherwise the rhythmic and harmonic fun and games work well enough, especially in the finale of the Second Sonata (I imagine most ‘blindfold’ listeners would be stumped if you asked them to guess the composer). Medvedev has a nice amount of freedom in phrasing, but more dynamic variety is needed in outer movements (the first movement of the B flat minor Sonata especially, until its suddenly quiet coda; up to then, the pianist demonstrates exactly what I mean by that ‘mezzo-fortist’ reference).

The three miniatures of 1893 would all make attractive encores, especially the music-box Polka; the Pastorale and Valse both pre-empt melodic ideas in the ballet The Seasons. Sound, like the playing, is robust.


David Nice