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Medtner Complete Skazki Op 8 - Op 54

Hamish Milne (piano)

Hyperion CDA67491/2 [157 mins]

I am enjoying the second disc of Hamish Milne's Skazki as I write - and trying to pinpoint why. I tend to prefer smaller pieces to large-scale sonatas, and normally warm to forward-looking innovatory musical thinking; which is not what Medtner offers.

I have loved and admired Medtner's piano music (and the composer's own performances of it) ever since my music teacher taught me to play Ein Idyll, took us to London to hear him play his 3rd concerto at the Albert Hall (together with Beethoven 4th, with Medtner's own extraordinary cadenza, which we found rather shocking) and later I bought the in the Maharajah of Mysore's subscription series 78s...

Described as proud and unbending, scornful of Schoenberg Stravinsky and even Strauss 'bordering on disgust', he was an archetypal reactionary, for whose music, against the grain, I have retained affection. Listening to these pieces, there is an unmistakable identity and individuality of harmony and gesture to relish; often piquant throw-away cadences. As was so with the composer himself, Milne has no need to emphasise or flaunt his virtuosity.

Delightful; I will try to have this welcome supplemented by a Brahmsian with a fuller examination of these pieces by a composer whose music has often been compared to Brahms's.

Peter Grahame Woolf