Medtner Arabesques, Dithyrambs and Elegies

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COMPOSERS: Nikolai Karlovich Medtner
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Medtner Arabesques, Dithyrambs and Elegies
WORKS: Arabesques, Dithyrambs, Elegies, other short piano works
PERFORMER: Hamish Milne (piano)


In this second heroic survey of Medtner’s elaborate late-Romantic world, Hamish Milne has not left the fantastical narratives of the first instalment’s Skazki (Fairytales) behind. That vein of fantasy crops up, too, in these pieces from the early 1900s. If Boris Berezovsky shows capriciousness in Medtner, then its Milne’s spacious, lucid approach that best suits the Andante cantabile of the gorgeous Prologue that launches Op. 1. Medtner’s exploitation of the keyboard’s possibilities truly begins to flourish in the measured grandiloquence of his two 1904 Arabesques subtitled ‘Tragedy – Fragment’. The humorous Dithyramb No. 2 is surely a masterpiece, and Milne happily strides its Olympian terrain with unforced richness of tone.

Medtner’s expressive range grows on the second disc. A collection of sombre and varied minor-key pieces gives way to the C major of the 1920s Three Hymns to Toil. Medtner shines in his own, free version of variation form deployed in the Op. 31 Improvisation – much less prolix than its earlier counterparts – and the two last Elegies. The official set of Op. 55 is perhaps the most conventional work here, though Milne articulates that as beautifully as the rest.


David Nice