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Violin Sonata No 1 in B minor, Op 21
composer
first performed (incomplete) in 1910; dedicated to Anna Bratenschi

Recordings
'Medtner: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 3' (CDA67963)
Medtner: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 3
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Details
Movement 1: Canzona: Canterellando; con fluidezza
Movement 2: Danza: Allegro scherzando
Movement 3: Ditirambo: Festivamente

Violin Sonata No 1 in B minor, Op 21
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Like many of Medtner’s works, the Violin Sonata No 1 in B minor germinated gradually from ideas sketched years earlier. Its first two movements (the former adorned with one of its composer’s more exotic Italian injunctions: canterellando means ‘humming’) were heard on their own in 1910, Medtner having failed to complete a finale. The work opens with a restrained barcarolle-like rhythm. Characteristically, it demonstrates a willingness to keep its primary ideas perpetually in view while modifying them so that they take on more tangential tonalities and harmonic colourings. Intriguingly, its air of elusive understatement suggests an affinity to a composer with whom Medtner is seldom compared, Gabriel Fauré. Indeed, the end of this movement is loosely reminiscent of a mélodie from Fauré’s opus 23, Les berceaux.

The G major Danza typifies two of Medtner’s salient idiosyncrasies: in its first section, the habit of repeating a pithy idea whose length is at odds with that of the bar, so that immediate (in this case, whimsical) tension and disjunction arise between actual and expected accentuation; and, in the rapid ensuing section, a predilection for groupings of three quavers in contradiction to the prevailing crotchet pulse. Here, the pattern is generally arranged as 3+3+2, thus ‘correcting’ matters at prescribed intervals. In many works, however, Medtner happily let the threes prevail for longer stretches, creating anarchic and dramatic conflicts between the ostensible rhythmic ‘vessel’ and what was poured into it. The movement ends with a brief reprise of both sections in turn.

Beginning with imposing bell effects, the B major Ditirambo admits more wistfulness than either its title (denoting a classical dance or hymn in honour of Dionysus) or its direction Festivamente might imply, and shows the composer’s fondness for synthesizing earlier material as well as introducing new, to create a satisfying escalation of both craft and rhetoric. Rhythmic sleights-of-hand from the preceding movements surface periodically in ‘augmented’ form, their note-lengths doubled to suggest progressive broadening towards some grand peroration. However, the Sonata ends quietly, in a fashion echoed many years later at the conclusion of Medtner’s final piano sonata, the Sonate-Idylle.

from notes by Francis Pott © 2013

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA67963 track 5
Canzona: Canterellando; con fluidezza
Artists
ISRC
GB-AJY-13-96305
Duration
8'12
Recording date
20 February 2012
Recording venue
Concert Hall, Wyastone Estate, Monmouth, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Andrew Keener
Recording engineer
Phil Rowlands
Hyperion usage
  1. Medtner: Violin Sonatas Nos 1 & 3 (CDA67963)
    Disc 1 Track 5
    Release date: September 2013
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