Hyperion Records

Sonata-Ballada in F sharp major, Op 27

'Medtner: The Complete Piano Sonatas' (CDA67221/4)
Medtner: The Complete Piano Sonatas
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Movement 1: Allegretto
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Movement 2: Introduzione: Mesto
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Movement 3: Finale: Allegro
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Sonata-Ballada in F sharp major, Op 27
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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