The Second Piano Concerto (1920/27) was first performed in Moscow, conducted by the composer’s brother. Medtner inscribed it to Rachmaninov—who returned the compliment by dedicating to him his own contemporaneous Fourth. Intriguingly, the two works are like an exchange of ‘musical letters’. Opening with a brilliant sonata-form Toccata (unusual for the substance of its reprise taking the guise of an ambitiously scaled solo cadenza), Medtner’s is overtly organized in the Rachmaninov manner: with similarly breathed and elaborated melodies; an A flat tripartite slow movement (Romance) enclosing a central agitato (à la the Rachmaninov C minor); and a final Divertimento-Rondo in the major that indulges, on the one hand, in the kind of architectural excesses found in Rachmaninov Three, and, on the other, in references to one of Rachmaninov’s songs. In his concerto (notably the finale), Rachmaninov pays homage specifically to Medtner’s peculiarly individual rhythmic style. Essentially, it must be stressed, however, that what these exchanges are about is tribute, not pastiche. Medtner is no more poor man’s Rachmaninov than Rachmaninov is rich man’s Medtner: each was possessed of a voice distinctively his own (in Medtner’s case especially so in the developmenal aspects of his Romance). During the thirties, following its first English performance (under Landon Ronald at a Queen’s Hall Philharmonic Society concert, All Saints Day, 1928), Sorabji placed a high value on the Second Concerto. Offering ‘splendid opportunities to first class pianists, musically and technically’, he thought its neglect ‘a scandal’. In 1948 Medtner recorded it with the Philharmonia under Dobroven.
from notes by Ates Orga © 1992