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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: 22 minutes 44 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-Ballada in F sharp major, Op 27

Allegretto  [10'17]
Finale: Allegro  [8'56]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The composer revealed that this sonata was based on a poem by Afanasy Fet describing Christ’s temptation in the wilderness—further evidence of the spiritual element in his work and the loftiness of his inspiration. There are three movements, joined without a break. The first opens with a joyful song celebrating the radiant beauty of spring. This implies the immanence of a Creator and the need for religious faith, something seemingly denied by the second subject, restless and anxious in spirit, the conflict reflected in the cross-rhythm of the accompaniment. The struggle continues in the development, and although the buoyant mood of the opening returns, it is utterly dashed in the turbulent coda which is brought to a despairing conclusion by a series of angry chords.

Both the brief second movement, Introduzione, and the Finale are headed by quotations from the poem itself: ‘Satan stole away’, ‘And the Angels came’, charting the triumph of righteousness over evil. The malevolent ‘satanic’ theme of the Introduzione is gradually rebuffed as the movement proceeds by fragments of another melody, one that is at last heard in full as the serene second subject of the Finale. One of Medtner’s most beautiful inspirations, this was clearly special for the composer; he used it again in two other works with religious overtones, a setting of Pushkin’s poem The Muse and the Piano Quintet. After a stern fugal episode based on the satanic theme, the music culminates in a joyous restatement of the second theme and the sonata’s opening, against a background of pealing bells.

from notes by Barrie Martyn © 1998

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