Hyperion Records

Two Pieces, Op 58
c1940; first performed by Medtner and Arthur Alexander; No 1 dedicated to Edna Iles; No 2 dedicated to Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin

'Medtner: Music for two pianos' (CDH55337)
Medtner: Music for two pianos
MP3 £4.99FLAC £4.99ALAC £4.99Buy by post £5.50 CDH55337  Helios (Hyperion's budget label)  
No 1: Russian Round-Dance 'A Tale'
Track 2 on CDH55337 [5'30] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)
No 2: Knight Errant
Track 1 on CDH55337 [11'15] Helios (Hyperion's budget label)

Two Pieces, Op 58
Publicly premiered by the composer with Arthur Alexander, the Two Pieces Op 58 (circa 1940) date from the time of the Third Piano Concerto. Published by Augener of London in 1946, the first, Russian Round-Dance (A Tale), is dedicated to Edna Iles, ‘the bravest and ablest besieger of my musical fortresses’ (inscription on printed copy, 30 January 1946); the second, Knight Errant, to the legendary Russian-born duo partnership Vitya Vronsky and Victor Babin. ‘In September 1940 came the Battle of Britain’, remembered Iles (‘Medtner, friend and master’, Recorded Sound, Journal of the British Institute of Recorded Sound, April–July 1978):

Our home was bombed and we took refuge in a small country house a few miles outside Birmingham. We heard from the Medtners of their disrupted life and inability either to work or rest in the chaotic conditions and deafening noise of the raids. My parents invited them the join us in the country and they accepted. They brought with them their white cat Kotia, who was devoted to them … [Later] we removed to the picturesque village of Wootton Wawen in Warwickshire, six miles from Stratford-on-Avon … The house, known by the strange name of ‘Foreign Park’was situated in an isolated spot surrounded by woods and fields, with only one solitary shop a mile distant from us … All Medtner’s mornings were devoted to composition. After an afternoon rest and tea, he would walk with Mrs Medtner [Anna], and I often accompanied them. The wild flowers which grew in the woods among the silver birches were a source of delight to him. There were of course countless discussions about music, but he had many other interests besides, especially painting and architecture (he knew all the important picture galleries of the world, as well as the great cathedrals and churches); he was also interested in poetry, philosophy and astronomy. He told me how he had spent many nights in Russia observing the stars through his telescope. He was a profound thinker, and brought wisdom and penetration to bear on any subject under discussion, and on the problems of life in general. There were days when he was in a cheerful mood, when he could be humorous and whimsical, but there were also days when he was silent and depressed, grieved by the horrors and seeming endlessness of the war, or exhausted by his work. On our return he would continue composing until the evening meal, after which we took [a] book and read aloud, with Mrs Medtner listening and copying his manuscripts meanwhile … One day he gave me the first movement of his Third Concerto, saying it was the first time he had ever given part of a work before the whole was completed. I started learning it at once and in three weeks we were playing it together on two pianos. We were also playing the Round-Dance … Whenever he had visitors he wished me to play for them. The Round-Dance was invariably included, and no one could resist the charm of this work … He presented me with the original manuscript of the Third Concerto.

Recorded in 1946 for HMV by the composer with Moiseiwitsch, the Round-Dance in E major takes the form of a (loosely ternary) khorovod—a species of brisk Russian dance-song—inflected by phrases of Anglicized speech. Knight Errant, in C minor but with many tonal digressions, is larger-scaled (44 pages against 22), more profound in melody and (sonata) working-out, and more intricate in texture. Essentially fast—Allegro risoluto (sempre al rigore di tempo)—how its opening 4/4 idea grows directly out of the 3/4 theme of the slow introduction (Andante), and is the basis subsequently of an athletic 3/4 fugato, is characteristically Medtneresque. If either piece had a story, the author wasn’t telling. ‘None of his music’, Iles says, ‘was meant to portray any programme or story, but sometimes some legend or idea in his mind could suggest the mood of a work.’ ‘We do not create anything’, Medtner believed. ‘Everything already exists. We only discover.’

from notes by Ates Orga © 1993

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