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Track(s) taken from CDA67491/2

Skazki, Op 42


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: 14 minutes 10 seconds


'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)
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

Le «Conte russe», op. 42 no 1 (1921) fut justement le dernier skazka à avoir été composé en Russie. Une fois émigré à l’Ouest, Medtner vit sa fortune décliner, hormis son retour triomphal dans sa patrie (1927) et, vers la fin de sa vie—il était alors déjà d’une santé défaillante—, une excitation tardive liée au parrainage de nombreux enregistrements par le maharadjah de Mysore. Les dernières pièces de ce corpus furent écrites en France et il est tentant, mais peut-être est-ce trop facile, de déceler des effluves de Fauré ou du Debussy première manière dans le délicat op. 42 no 2 («mode phrygien»), palpitant réseau de climats évanescents et de passion. Les deux thèmes principaux de l’op. 42 no 3 semblent réunir avec bonheur le caractère des deux Skazki précédents; le premier, sombre et mélancolique (quasi violoncello solo) se métamorphose (poco a poco) en un scherzando miroitant. Tout le mouvement, minutieusement ouvragé, s’achève dans une parfaite logique sur une coda splendidement bruyante, comme si on refermait le cahier en le claquant.

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

Das „Russische Märchen“, op. 42, Nr. 1 war angemessenerweise das letzte in Russland komponierte. Nach seiner Emigration in den Westen verschlechterten sich seine Umstände im allgemeinen, abgesehen von seiner einzigen triumphalen Rückkehr in sein Heimatland 1927 und einem Taumel verspäteter Aktivität in seinen letzten Jahren, als der Maharaja von Mysore viele Aufnahmen sponserte und Medtner sich bereits in schlechter Gesundheit befand. Die übrigen Stücke in dieser Sammlung wurden in Frankreich komponiert, und zu leicht besteht die Versuchung, einen Hauch von Fauré oder frühem Debussy im delikaten op. 42, Nr. 2 („phrygisch“), einem flatternden Netz vergänglicher Stimmungen und Leidenschaften, zu hören. Die beiden Hauptthemen von op. 42, Nr. 3, scheinen glücklich die Charaktere der beiden vorhergehenden Skazki zusammenzubringen; das erste, düster und melancholisch (quasi violoncello solo) verwandelt sich (poco a poco) in ein gleißendes Scherzando. Der ganze sorgfältig gestaltete Satz schließt ganz logisch mit einer herrlich ungebärdigen Coda, als ob damit das Buch zugeschlagen wird.

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

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