Hyperion Records

Piano Concerto No 1 in C minor, Op 33
Of the three Medtner piano concertos the first is remarkable for its inspirational inner content, the beauty of its melodies and the grand scale of its structure. It is probably his most outstanding work. He began it in 1914 and the first performance took place in Moscow on 12 May 1918, the composer as soloist under Koussevitsky.

The horrible events of the First World War are, perhaps unavoidably, reflected in the work. Russian and German cultures meant equally much to Medtner and the war between the two countries developed into a personal tragedy for him. The Concerto is a grandiose, one-movement construction, written in sonata form, where the extended development of each section compensates for the lack of the traditional division into movements. Slow and scherzo-like episodes sound almost like the middle movement of a symphony and the coda, which is thematically and dynamically rich, serves as a finale. The originality of the Concerto’s form is increased by the interfusion of two structural principles: the sonata form gives the work its general contours while the variation form imparts diversity, contrast and a more fragmentary structure.

The work opens with four introductory exclamations anticipating the appearance of the main theme, full of heroic yet tragic pathos. The thematic concentration of the Concerto’s musical material is remarkable: the main theme serves as the source for the two lyrical subjects, as well as for every other important section. The development is very unusual: it consists of a theme and a cycle of variations. Here the composer develops fragments of all the main themes of the Concerto with considerable polyphonic skill. The short recapitulation is extremely dynamic, and the coda presents the last climax of the Concerto. Medtner somewhat delays the outcome by leading the themes through a number of odd modulations and unusual harmonies: only at the very end do we hear a triumphant hymn in C major, followed by three final bell-like ringing strokes on the piano.

from notes by Dmitri Alexeev © 1994

Track-specific metadata
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Details for CDA66744 track 3
Recording date
23 March 1994
Recording venue
Blackheath Concert Halls, London, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Arthur Johnson
Recording engineer
Tony Faulkner
Hyperion usage
  1. Medtner: Piano Concerto No 1 & Piano Quintet (CDA66744)
    Disc 1 Track 3
    Release date: September 1994
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