Play ‘… as if appealing to someone with a fervent entreaty’ was how Medtner advised his pupil Edna Iles to approach Op 20 No 1, an outpouring of world sorrow with an overwhelming climax marked con disperazione
. Its companion, Op 20 No 2 (Campanella
), a doom-laden tale of pile-driving rhythms and relentless fatalism, is so far from the tintinnabulations of Liszt/Paganini that one of its finest exponents, Boris Berezovsky, likens its ‘riffs’ to hard rock. Medtner insists that it should be played absolutely without rubato and adds, in a footnote, that it should be regarded not as a tale about a bell but as one told by a bell, in whose chime ‘can be heard calamity and terror’. The multi-talented Leonid Sabaneiev likened Medtner in this mood to ‘a gnome, a Nibelung seeking refuge in the dark fissures of the earth’, a description that would not have displeased the composer who insisted that artists must ‘earn their works by hard labour, like miners, and not try to pluck them like flowers by the wayside’.
from notes by Hamish Milne © 2007