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Track(s) taken from CDA67491/2

Skazki, Op 51


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: 22 minutes 14 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)
The English nomenclature ‘Fairy Tale’ is perhaps appropriate for once to the Op 51 set, given its dedication to ‘Zolushka (Cinderella) and Ivan the Fool’. And some sort of sorcery is clearly afoot in the incantational monotone of the No 4’s main theme (sostenuto, magico). According to programme notes for Medtner’s recital at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, in 1930: ‘In the first tale the characters are introduced, the second is a song of Cinderella, the last a dance of the Fool.’ This being so, the stuttering introduction to Ivan’s dance may be a rare instance in Medtner of onomatopoeic musical representation! Ivan Ilyin, unsurprisingly, surmises that a lofty symbolism and idealism lie behind the naive exterior. It was this set which prompted a delighted Rachmaninov to exclaim ‘No one tells such Tales as Kolya’, after Medtner played them at a private gathering. The ebullience of Ivan’s dance belies the increasing depression of the composer, by now living in France in near poverty. His despondency is revealed in a letter to the singer Tatiana Makushina: ‘I have a horrible feeling that this whole story will turn out to be another fairy tale about ‘Ivan the Fool’ who I have already proved myself to be so many times in my life.’

from notes by Hamish Milne © 2007

Pour une fois, l’anglais «Fairy Tale» («Conte de fées») semble convenir à l’op. 51, dédié à «Zolushka (Cendrillon) et Ivan l’Imbécile». À l’évidence, il se trame quelque sorcellerie dans le ton incantatoire et monocorde du thème principal du no 4 (sostenuto, magico). Selon les notes de programme qui accompagnaient le récital donné par Medtner au Bryn Mawr College de Pennsylvanie, en 1930: «Le premier conte présente les personnages, le deuxième est un chant de Cendrillon et le dernier une danse de l’Imbécile.» L’introduction bredouillante à la danse d’Ivan pourrait d’ailleurs être l’un des rares exemples medtneriens de représentation musicale onomatopéique! Ivan Ilyin, bien sûr, suppose qu’un symbolisme et un idéalisme élevés se cachent derrière l’apparente naïveté. Ce fut après avoir entendu Medtner jouer ce corpus en réunion privée que Rachmaninov, enchanté, s’exclama: «Personne ne raconte les contes comme Kolya.» Le bouillonnement de la danse d’Ivan dément la dépression grandissante du compositeur, qui vivait alors en France, dans un quasi dénuement. Son abattement transparaît dans une lettre adressée à la chanteuse Tatiana Makushina: «J’ai l’horrible sensation que toute cette histoire va encore être un conte de fées sur «Ivan l’Imbécile», celui-là même que j’ai déjà été tant de fois dans ma vie.»

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

Die englische Bezeichnung „Fairy Tale“ ist für die Sammlung op. 51 vielleicht einmal angebracht, da sie „Soluschka (Aschenputtel) und Iwan, dem Narren“ gewidmet ist. Und in der monotonen Beschwörung des Hauptthemas aus Nr. 4 (sostenuto, magico) ist eindeutig Zauberei am Werke. Das Programmheft für Medtners Recital am Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, 1930 beschreibt es so: „In der ersten Erzählung werden die Charaktere vorgestellt, die zweite ist ein Lied Aschenputtels, die letzte ein Tanz des Narren.“ So gesehen könnte die stotternde Einführung zu Iwans Tanz ein für Medtner seltener Fall von musikalischer Lautmalerei sein! Iwan Iljin vermutet kaum überraschend, dass sich hinter der naiven Fassade erhabene Symbolik und Idealismus verstecken. Dies Sammlung ließen einen begeisterten Rachmaninow ausrufen: „Niemand erzählt solche Geschichten wie Kolja“, nachdem Medtner bei einer privaten Versammlung gespielt hatte. Der Überschwang von Iwans Tanz täuscht über die wachsende Depression des Komponisten hinweg, der unterdessen in ärmlichen Zuständen in Frankreich lebte. Seine Niedergeschlagenheit wird in einem Brief an Tatjana Makuschina enthüllt: „Ich habe ein ungutes Gefühl, dass diese ganze Geschichte sich als ein weiteres Märchen über ‚Iwan den Narren‘ herausstellen wird, den ich schon so oft in meinem Leben gespielt habe.“

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

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