The Op 14 pair opens with a Shakespearean tale (Ophelia’s Song
). Its Dorian modality lends an air of antiquity; nevertheless it is a Russian Ophelia who sings here. It was originally conceived as a violin piece for Alexander Medtner, the composer’s brother, but its consistently pure three- and four-part harmony suggests a string quartet (for which sketches also exist). Which of the songs and fragments of ill-fated Ophelia was the source of this tale is not specified. Op 14 No 2 (March of the Paladin
) is a rhythmical and contrapuntal tour de force, fizzing with all manner of canons and thematic combinations: one of Medtner’s forays (probably Pushkin-inspired) into the realm of medieval chivalry.
from notes by Hamish Milne © 2007