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Medtner Complete Skazi

Op 8, 9, 14, 20, 26, 31/3, 34, 35, 42, 48, 51, (1915)

Romantic Sketches for the Young Op 54


Hamish Milne (piano)


Hyperion CDA 67491/2 (2 discs)



Fluent, attractive performances of fluent, attractive compositions. Milne has long championed Medtner, essentially against the charge that these pieces are not very innovatory; he plays with a deep knowledge of the composer.


Milne is idiomatic and sensitive, and it is good to have a complete survey of the Skazi in such a modern and well-presented form. That said, he is a relatively unadventurous interpreter; the more extrovert pieces, in particular can seem stodgy. Above mezzo-piano, there is not a great variety of tone colour.


Skazi means ‘tales,' though is often translated ‘fairy tales. ' The German ‘Maerchen' is arguably the best equivalent. So this is a two disc collection not necessarily intended to be listened to at one sitting, any more than are some other comprehensive surveys of Russian piano music, such as even Richter on Olympia .


The opening of Disc 2 presents Milne at his best, simple, unaffected but winning. If anything, these are under-characterised performances, but always respectful. The Op 54 collection at the end also comes off especially well – sample “Pastoral” or “The Organ Grinder.” By comparison, some of the bigger structures (such as the Op 8 collection) lack a real sense of emotional development or climax, nor was I as moved by “Ophelia” or by –say- the Op 35 pieces. No 2, for example, begins promisingly, then does not really ‘go anywhere.' Likewise, the Paladin's March, which a Richter would surely have delivered with appropriate heroism, comes over as pale, almost timid.


Among competing performers, Hyperion's own Marc-Andre Hamelin is very fine, and certainly more virtuosic. Geoffrey Tozer also has his adherents. Many would also say that the composer's own 1931 recording has never been surpassed. Nor, one must say, is Milne's collection the equal of a comparable disc like Gilels' Lyric Pieces, or even Pletnev ‘s recent Tchaikovsky recital.


Excellent production value as usual. This Milne set is recommended, but only with qualified rapture.


Ying Chang