With the Three Arabesques Op 7 Medtner’s style and mastery can be said to be truly established. The wistful Idyll (No 1) briefly enjoyed modest popularity as both a concert and a teaching piece. Its gentle melancholy, exquisite harmony and perfection of form are too aristocratic to categorize it as salon music, but it is about as near as Medtner got to that perhaps over-maligned genre. It may have been deemed too slight to be published on its own as there seems no other reason for it to be bundled with the two overwhelming Tragedy Fragments under the absurdly incongruous title Arabesques. It was the first of these two miniature masterpieces, a noble lament, that prompted Rachmaninov to exclaim: ‘Write one such piece and one can die!’ The frenetic opening of the second Tragedy Fragment sets the tone for one of Medtner’s most virtuosic compositions. Densely contrapuntal in texture and never relaxing tension for a moment, it even steps up a gear in the coda to magnificent effect. Completed just before the first abortive Russian revolution of 1905, Medtner retrospectively dubbed it ‘A Presentiment of Revolution’.
from notes by Hamish Milne © 2012