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Hyperion Records

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Track(s) taken from CDA67221/4
Recording details: August 1996
St George's, Brandon Hill, United Kingdom
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: September 1998
Total duration: 31 minutes 29 seconds

'A set that does deserve celebration. Indispensable to all lovers of Medtner's subtle and enriching art … superlatively played and presented. Such writing positively demands a transcendental technique and a burning poetic commitment, a magical amalgam achieved with delicacy, drama and finesse by Marc-André Hamelin' (Gramophone)

'Hamelin and everyone involved with the production of this release deserves the highest praise' (Fanfare, USA)

'I was breathless with admiration' (Hi-Fi News)

'Merci de contribuer aussi magistralement à la redécouverte de Nikolai Medtner' (Répertoire, France)

'Ce coffret est un monument de l'histoire du disque, comme il n'en pas eu beaucoup depuis une décennie' (The Samedi Culturel)

Sonata in F minor, Op 5
1901 to 1903

Allegro  [12'25]
Largo divoto  [8'08]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Medtner’s first published sonata dates from 1901–1903, though the Intermezzo is a reworking of a Moment musical written in his student years, and overall the work is not yet fully representative of the mature composer. Even so, when in November 1902 Medtner played the first of its four movements to Josef Hofmann, the famous pianist went so far as to describe the work as the most important of all the contemporary piano compositions known to him, ‘a perfect whole’.

As elsewhere in Medtner’s work, the music’s formal design also has a spiritual dimension, here hinted at by the composer’s expression marks. Thus the turbulent soul-searching of the first movement, neither resolved by its end nor relieved by the ensuing quietly menacing Intermezzo, is followed by a Largo divoto, which, as the heading suggests, is a kind of prayerful meditation, a spiritual struggle from uncertainty to hope in prayer (a passage marked pietoso), through further uncertainty to a fervent climax in further prayer (con entusiasmo). At the end of the movement confidence ebbs, but the consequent agitation of the first theme of the Finale is assuaged by the measured and pious tones of the second, marked religioso, which proves to be a major-key version of the second theme of the first movement. The material is worked out at length in the development, where the composer’s contrapuntal and fugal skills are given full rein. In the recapitulation a final interlude of uncertainty and dejection is swept away by the affirmative restatement of both themes and the pealing of bells in jubilant celebration. The struggle has been won.

from notes by Barrie Martyn © 1998

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