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Track(s) taken from CDA67491/2

Skazki, Op 8


Hamish Milne (piano)
Recording details: October 2006
Henry Wood Hall, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Jeremy Hayes
Engineered by Tony Faulkner
Release date: April 2007
Total duration: 10 minutes 3 seconds

Other recordings available for download

Marc-André Hamelin (piano)


'They're among [Medtner's] characteristic utterances and include many of his finest inspirations. Some are simply masterpieces … it's excellent to have a complete collection from Hamish Milne, one of our leading Medtnerians, as a welcome counterpart to Marc-André Hamelin's complete Sonatas, also on Hyperion. Milne is in complete technical and expressive command, bringing to them the fleetness and rhythmic spring, the varied character and wit, that all Medtner's music needs. He crests the summists of their virtuosity with such ease one can concentrate throughout on the music, not the pianist, as Medtner intended … he expounds the composer's thought with complete identification and sympathy' (BBC Music Magazine)

'From the very first of these skazki ('tales'), I was hooked. Much of this is to do with the advocacy of Hamish Milne, who has already recorded some of this repertoire for the CRD label, is regarded by many as the composer's greatest living champion and, as his booklet note emphasises, is determined to see through the prejudice that has dogged the composer's reputation since his death in 1951. His playing has the muscularity to cope with Medtner's often challenging rhythmic writing—listen to the bracing 'Dance Tale' from Op 48 of 1925—while this vigour is counterbalanced by a sensitivity to the music's poetry and lyricism. Indeed, his sympathy for Medtner's ever-amenable style—echoing Rachmaninov and Debussy at times—ensures that the ear is constantly engaged' (The Daily Telegraph)

'This is a major, important release … Milne has been recording Medtner for quite some time now … and his detailed and very well written booklet notes are on the same high level as his pianism … no-one plays these musical Tales as well as Hamish Milne' (American Record Guide)

'Hamish Milne's performances maintain a high level of consistency, presenting Medtner's ideas with great clarity. His playing has a crispness and rhythmic vitality that serves the music well. Medtner's various moods are all capably handled … an impressive achievement and eminently recommendable recording … recorded sound is up to Hyperion's usual excellent standards' (International Record Review)

'The 38 Skazki are the most important piano miniatures that Nikolay Medtner composed … there's something discursive and fantastical about these pieces; intensely conservative, Medtner's musical language was always rooted in late 19th-century romanticism, the world that his contemporary and friend Rachmaninov fashioned into a distinctive personal style, but which Medtner preserved almost intact. Yet his piano writing is vivid and superbly idiomatic; there are wonderful things in these Skazki, which are inspired by a wide range of literary sources, from Goethe and Shakespeare (King Lear and Hamlet) to Pushkin and Russian folklore … Hamish Milne is a wonderful guide to this world—his performances are both technically outstanding and musically penetrating' (The Guardian)

'Each one a unique gem of beguiling invention. Notoriously difficult to bring off, Hamish Milne makes some of the most exacting pages in the repertoire sound glorious' (Classic FM Magazine)

'Medtner was sometimes chided for lacking focus, but there's nothing diffuse in these clean-cut and formally lucid readings, which manage to present a wealth of boldly delineated detail without ever obscuring the music's overall trajectories. We're certainly unlikely to get a better complete run of the Skazki in the foreseeable future. Strongly recommended … a revelation: music of fantasy and individuality, and played by Milne with devotion' (Fanfare, USA)

'Milne has recorded many epoch-making Medtner discs and his new collection of the complete Skazki stands out as his finest to date. The richness of ideas and the overwhelming range of expression is Medtner at his finest. Milne eclipses Geoffrey Tozer in his otherwise brilliant Chandos recording and I cannot think of a pianist today who can better this' (Pianist)

'Milne's is a sincere and personal journey, as Medtner's undoubtedly was; the sound is fresh and unfussy, and Milne's own notes perspicuous and heartfelt' (International Piano)

'Completed by flawless recording quality—immediate, vivid and truthful, but never oppressive (dynamics are faithfully captured)—this is a quite outstanding and revelatory issue' (Classical Source)
It was Medtner’s lifelong friend and admirer Sergei Rachmaninov who famously remarked: ‘Only Medtner has, from the beginning, published works that it would be hard for him to equal in later life.’ The first pair of Skazki, Op 8, finds Medtner already at the height of his powers. Immediately striking is their use of a common motto to open and close both pieces. This sort of thing raises alarm in the analytically minded but, according to Medtner, is of no great significance; but it does make the pair uncommonly effective when performed in tandem. This idiosyncrasy apart, the two could hardly be more disparate in character. Some dark shadows notwithstanding, the first, alternately gnomic and lyrical, does nothing to forewarn us of the violence to follow. This second piece, Op 8 No 2, is one of Medtner’s masterpieces, a sonata movement of formidable complexity and panache. All his prodigious and precocious skills of form and content, rhythm and harmony, motif and melody are displayed with flawless mastery and pianistic ingenuity. Some of the expression marks—pleading, chaotic, suffocated, threatening—suggest (unusually for Medtner) an almost Scriabinesque frenzy. This was as ‘modern’ as he ever got—and at twenty-five years of age.

from notes by Hamish Milne © 2007

Indéfectible ami et admirateur de Medtner, Sergei Rachmaninov eut ces mots fameux: «Seul Medtner a, dès le début, publié des œuvres qu’il aurait, par la suite, du mal à égaler.» Le premier diptyque de Skazki (op. 8) le trouve, en effet, déjà au faîte de ses moyens. D’emblée, on est saisi par l’usage d’un même motif pour ouvrir et conclure ces deux pièces. De telles choses alarment les esprits analytiques, mais Medtner ne leur accorde guère d’importance—elles n’en rendent pas moins le diptyque d’une efficacité rare quand on joue les deux volets en tandem. Cette idiosyncrasie exceptée, difficile de concevoir deux pièces de caractère plus disparate. Malgré quelques sombres ombres, la première, tour à tour gnomique et lyrique, ne fait rien pour nous avertir de la violence à venir dans l’op. 8 no 2, un mouvement de sonate à la complexité et au panache formidables, l’un des chefs-d’œuvre de Medtner. Sa prodigieuse et précoce maîtrise de la forme et du contenu, du rythme et de l’harmonie, du motif et de la mélodie, il la déploie ici pleinement, avec un art parfait doublé d’ingéniosité pianistique. Certains signes d’expression—suppliant, chaotique, suffoqué, menaçant—suggèrent (chose rare chez lui) une frénésie quasi scriabinesque. C’était plus «moderne» que tout ce qu’il obtint jamais—à seulement vingt-cinq ans.

extrait des notes rédigées par Hamish Milne © 2007
Français: Hypérion

Medtners lebenslanger Freund und Bewunderer Sergei Rachmaninow bemerkte einmal: „Nur Medtner hat von Anfang an Werke veröffentlicht, denen er später in seinem Leben nur schwer gleichkommen konnte.“ Das erste Paar von Skazki, op. 8, findet Medtner bereits auf der Höhe seiner Kraft. Der Gebrauch eines gemeinsamen Themas, mit dem beide Stücke beginnen und schießen, fällt unmittelbar auf. Solche Mittel lassen in analytisch Gesinnten sofort Alarmglocken läuten, laut Medtner hat das aber nur wenig Bedeutung, obwohl es die beiden Stücke besonders wirkungsvoll macht, wenn sie zusammen aufgeführt werden. Abgesehen von dieser Eigentümlichkeit könnten die beiden im Charakter kaum verschiedener sein. Trotz einiger dunkler Schatten warnt uns nichts im abwechselnd gnomischen und lyrischen ersten Märchen vor der folgenden Gewalt. Dieses zweite Stück, op. 8, Nr. 2 gehört zu Medtners Meisterwerken und ist ein Sonatensatz von erheblicher Komplexität und Elan. All sein wunderbares, frühreifes Geschick in Form und Inhalt, Rhythmus und Harmonik, Motiv und Melodik wird mit makelloser Meisterschaft und pianistischem Einfallsreichtum vorgeführt. Einige seiner Markierungen—bittend, chaotisch, erstickt, drohend—deuten (ungewöhnlich für Medtner) einen nahezu Skrjabinesken Rausch an. Hier—mit fünfundzwanzig Jahren—schrieb Medtner so „modern“ wie er je schreiben sollte.

aus dem Begleittext von Hamish Milne © 2007
Deutsch: Renate Wendel

Other albums featuring this work

Medtner: Forgotten Melodies
Medtner: The Complete Piano Sonatas
CDA67221/44CDs for the price of 3
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