Appropriately, the ‘Russian Tale’ Op 42 No 1 of 1921 was the last to be composed in Russia. After his emigration to the West, Medtner’s fortunes were generally in decline, apart from his one triumphant return to his homeland in 1927 and a flurry of belated excitement in his last years occasioned by the sponsorship by the Maharajah of Mysore of many recordings, by which time the composer was in failing health. The remaining pieces in the set were composed in France and it is tempting but perhaps too simple to detect a whiff of Fauré or early Debussy in the delicate Op 42 No 2 (‘Phrygian Mode’), a fluttering web of evanescent moods and passion. The two main themes of Op 42 No 3 seem to bring together felicitously the character of the two preceding Skazki
; the first sombre and melancholy (quasi violoncello solo
) metamorphoses (poco a poco) into a glinting scherzando. The whole meticulously fashioned movement ends entirely logically in a splendidly obstreperous coda, as if slamming the book shut.
from notes by Hamish Milne © 2007