Saturday, October 10, 2015

Nikolai Medtner - Piano Concertos Nos. 2 & 3 (Nikolai Demidenko)


Composer: Nikolai Medtner
  1. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 50: I. Toccata (Allegro risoluto)
  2. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 50: II. Romanza (Andante con moto)
  3. Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 50: III. Divertimento (Allegro risoluto e molto vivace)
  4. Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor "Ballade", Op. 60: I. Con moto largamente
  5. Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor "Ballade", Op. 60: II. Interludium (Allegro molto sostenuto, misterioso)
  6. Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor "Ballade", Op. 60: III. Finale (Allegro molto. Svegliando, eroico)

Nikolai Demidenko, piano
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Jerzy Maksymiuk, conductor
Date: 1992
Label: Hyperion



"... Listening to other pianists you have your doubts concerning the music's ultimate quality but with Demidenko all possible sense of cliche or staleness is swept into oblivion. From him you would never think for one second that you were listening to music that is ''strangely twice told''. The opening of the Second Concerto's Toccata is launched with a super-charged, molten bravura (his tempos in rapid movements are significantly faster than Tozer's) followed by a second subject caressed with the most insinuating ease and grace. Listen to Demidenko in the following al rigore di tempo (2'44'') as an example of his razor sharp rhythm or try 9'35'' where his all- Russian virtuosity creates a truly vertiginous effect, almost as if one was being suddenly pitched down a mountainside.

Similar wonders and felicities abound throughout the Third Concerto, arguably the most endearing of the three. Demidenko's way with the opening theme, with its soaring melody and churning undertow is altogether more urgent than Tozer's, and the sweep and glamour of his pianism at, say, 4'00'' are hard to resist. In page after page his sheer agility allows him an expressive freedom and verve that bring every bar vividly and authentically alive.

On the debit side the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra sound less well equipped for their admittedly daunting task (Demidenko's abrupt changes of tempo and direction keep everyone on the qui vivre) than the London Philharmonic under Neeme Jarvi who are allowed an altogether more relaxed and convivial form of music-making. The recordings in both instances are outstanding (particularly the Chandos), the balance very much as you would hear it in a live concert-hall performance. Old and cherished recordings of the First Concerto by Igor Zhukov, of the Second by A. Shaskes and of the Third by Tatiana Nikolaieva are at last dazzlingly surpassed and replaced, though Nikolaieva's performance is, not surprisingly, haunting and authoritative. An album of solo items from Demidenko is promised from Hyperion and EMI will shortly be issuing an invaluable disc of the composer partnering some of his most distinguished colleagues and friends; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Oda Slobodskya in the songs, Benno Moiseiwitsch in the Round Dance; riches indeed!

But if you want to hear Medtner's music purged of all possible superfluity or convention, vitalized in a way that previously seemed impossible, then Demidenko is your man. I have not heard a more thrilling recording of a virtuoso romantic concerto since Michelangeli's legendary EMI disc of Rachmaninov's Fourth Concerto. Above all you find confirmation of the words, quoted on Hyperion's excellent sleeve, ''being a Russian is a duty. For Medtner coming to England did nothing to change that. The Moscow nights, the Russian spring, the basilicas and bards of his young manhood; such was his heritage, a chalice of dreams and memories to hold for always. Prince of truth, he was one of Russia's great sons."

-- Bryce Morrison, Gramophone

More reviews:


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.


Nikolai Demidenko (born July 1, 1955, Aniskino) is a Soviet-Russian-born classical pianist. In addition to a vast amount of the standard Germanic and Russian repertory, he is a specialist of Frédéric Chopin and a noted champion of the works of neglected composers as well as neglected works of well-known composers.


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  1. MEGA

  2. Many thanks for these great concertos!