Sunday, October 11, 2015

Nikolai Medtner - Piano Concerto No. 1; Piano Quintet (Dmitri Alexeev)


Composer: Nikolai Medtner
  1. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 33: I. Allegro -
  2. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 33: II. Theme and Variations -
  3. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 33: III. Recapitulation -
  4. Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 33: IV. Coda: Allegro molto 
  5. Piano Quintet in C major, Op. posth.: I. Molto placido
  6. Piano Quintet in C major, Op. posth.: II. Andantino con moto
  7. Piano Quintet in C major, Op. posth.: III. Finale: Allegro vivace

Dmitri Alexeev, piano
BBC Symphony Orchestra, cond. Alexander Lazarev (1-4)
New Budapest Quartet (5-7)
András Kiss & Ferenc Balogh, violin (1-6)
László Bársony, viola (1-3)
Károly Botvay, cello (1-3)
Date: 1994
Label: Hyperion



Medtner would have been both grateful and astonished by his present and ever-increasing recognition. Once dismissed as an unsatisfactory betwixt-and-between composer, one without a convincing personal voice who was overshadowed by Rachmaninov's greater glamour and accessibility, his time has truly come. For Dmitri Alexeev the First Concerto is Medtner's masterpiece, an argument he sustains in a performance of superb eloquence and discretion. Even the sort of gestures later vulgarized and traduced by Tinseltown are given with an aristocratic quality, a feel for a love of musical intricacy that takes on an almost symbolic force and potency, but also for Medtner's dislike of display. You may occasionally miss the torching brilliance of Demidenko's Medtner (his solo recital, 9/93, and the Gramophone Award-winning disc of the Second and Third Concertos, 4/92, also for Hyperion, are of unique authority) or, more specifically, Igor Zhukov's more blustering, devil-may-care virtuosity in his recording of the First Concerto, yet time and again Alexeev makes you pause to reconsider Medtner's quality, and his reserve brings its own distinctive reward. The early Abbandonamente ma non troppo has a haunting improvisatory inwardness and later, as the storm clouds gather ominously at 11'55'', his playing generates all the necessary electricity.

How thankful one is, too, for Alexeev's advocacy of the Piano Quintet where, together with his fully committed colleagues, he recreates music of the strangest, most unworldly exultance and introspection. Instructions such as poco tranquillo (sereno) and Quasi Hymn take us far away from the turbulence of the First Concerto (composed in the shadow of the First World War) and the finale's conclusion with glissando and tremolo for added effect, is wonderfully uplifting.

The recordings are judiciously balanced in both works, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Lazarev are as alert as they are sympathetic. Alexeev's own accompanying notes, with their reference to the strange paradox of Medtner's genius and his joy in the re-discovery of music ''imbued with the strength of his powerful spirit and the beauty he believed in'', provide a crowning touch to this brilliantly enterprising disc; the eighth, and certainly one of the finest, in Hyperion's Romantic Piano Concerto series.

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

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Nikolai Medtner (5 January 1880 [O.S. 24 December 1879] – 13 November 1951) was a Russian composer and pianist, a younger contemporary of Scriabin and Rachmaninov. He wrote a substantial number of compositions, include fourteen piano sonatas, three violin sonatas, three piano concerti, a piano quintet, etc., all of which include the piano.


Dmitri Alexeev (born 10 August 1947 in Moscow) is a Russian pianist. He studied at the Moscow Conservatory, and additionally under Dmitri Bashkirov. In the 1970s Alexeev made his debuts in London, Vienna, Chicago and New York, and also won the Leeds Piano Competition in 1975. He now teaches at the Royal College of Music in London.


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  1. MEGA