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Track(s) taken from CDA67491/2

Romantic Sketches for the Young, Op 54


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: 25 minutes 25 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 Romantic Sketches for the Young Op 54 were composed in response to a plea for something ‘of moderate difficulty’ from Medtner’s German publisher, who had been hesitant in taking the huge commercial risk of publishing the massive Sonatas romantica and minacciosa (Op 53 Nos 1 and 2) in view of the volatile inflation prevalent at the time (1932). Medtner rather huffily obliged with four new Skazki, each preceded by a Prelude. Despite the imposed restrictions, Medtner found something unique to say in each piece. Especially worthy to sit beside their adult counterparts are the radiant Hymn (in C major in common with his other works with overtly religious connotations) and its companion The Beggar. The gentle rain which descends from the top of the keyboard towards the Hymn’s close seems to combine a poetic purpose with a didactic one since the white-note figuration has a feel of a keyboard exercise. The lamentations of the Skazka evoke that mixture of pity and contempt meted out to beggars and other unfortunates in nineteenth-century Russian literature. The Beggar was to be the last Skazka for solo piano, but the story does not quite end there, for the Two Pieces for two pianos, Op 58, are also Skazki, and one could argue that the third Piano Concerto, Op 60 (after Lermontov’s poem Rusalka), is the grandest Skazka of all.

from notes by Hamish Milne © 2007

Les Esquisses romantiques pour la jeunesse, op. 54, Medtner les composa pour répondre à son éditeur allemand qui le pressait d’écrire quelque chose de «modérément difficile»—face à l’inflation alors instable (1932), ce dernier avait hésité à prendre l’énorme risque commercial de publier les monumentales Sonates romantica et minacciosa (op. 53 nos 1 et 2). Medtner s’exécuta, plutôt avec mauvaise humeur, et produisit quatre nouveaux Skazki, chacun précédé d’un Prélude. Malgré les restrictions imposées, il trouva, à chaque fois, quelque chose d’unique à dire. La radieuse Hymne (en ut majeur, comme toutes les œuvres medtneriennes à connotation ouvertement religieuse) et son pendant Le mendiant sont tout particulièrement dignes de figurer aux côtés des Skazki pour adultes. La douce ondée qui descend du haut du clavier, vers la fin de l’hymne, semble marier desseins poétique et didactique tant la figuration en touches blanches sent les exercices de clavier. Les lamentations du skazka évoquent cette pitié teintée de mépris que l’on rencontre chez les mendiants et autres infortunés qui peuplent la littérature russe du XIXe siècle. Le mendiant fut l’ultime Skazka pour piano solo de Medtner, même si l’histoire ne s’arrêta pas tout à fait là: les Deux pièces pour deux pianos, op. 58 sont, elles aussi, des Skazki et l’on pourrait avancer que le Concerto pour piano no 3, op. 60 (d’après le poème Roussalka de Lermontov) est le plus grandiose de tous les Skazki.

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

Die Romantischen Skizzen für die Jugend, op. 54 wurden auf die Bitte von Medtners deutschem Verleger für etwas „von mittlerem Schwierigkeitsgrad“ geschrieben; angesichts der unberechenbaren Inflation zu dieser Zeit (1932) zögerte er, das große finanzielle Risiko einzugehen, die beiden massiven Sonaten romantica und minacciosa (op. 53, Nr. 1 und 2) herauszubringen. Medtner erfüllte die Bitte etwas gereizt mit vier neuen Skazki, denen er jeweils ein Präludium voranstellte. Trotz der auferlegten Beschränkungen, fand Medtner für jedes Stück etwas einzigartiges. Besonders würdig, neben ihren erwachsenen Gegenstücken zu sitzen, sind die glänzende Hymne (in C-Dur wie all seine anderen Werke mit offen religiösen Assoziationen) und ihr Gegenstück Der Bettler. Der sanfte Regen, der gegen Ende der Hymne vom hohen Register der Klaviatur rieselt, scheint eine poetische Absicht mit einer didaktischen zu verbinden, da die Figuration auf den weißer Taste den Anklang an eine Fingerübung hat. Die Lamentationen der Skazka rufen die Mischung von Mitleid und Verachtung hervor, die in der russischen Literatur des 19. Jahrhunderts Bettlern und anderen in unglücklichen Umständen Befindlichen entgegengebracht wurde. Der Bettler sollte die letzte Skazka für Soloklavier sein, aber die Geschichte hört nicht hier auf, denn die Zwei Stücke für zwei Klaviere, op. 58, sind ebenfalls Skazki und man könnte sagen, dass das Dritte Klavierkonzert, op. 60 (nach Lermontows Gedicht Rusalka) die größte seiner Skazki ist.

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

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