Sunday, March 19, 2017

Nikolai Medtner; Alexander Scriabin - Piano Concertos (Yevgeny Sudbin)


Composer: Nikolai Medtner; Alexander Scriabin
  1. Scriabin - Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20: I. Allegro
  2. Scriabin - Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20: II. Andante
  3. Scriabin - Piano Concerto in F sharp minor, Op. 20: III. Allegro moderato
  4. Medtner - Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor, 'Ballade', Op. 60: I. Con moto largamento - Allegretto con moto
  5. Medtner - Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor, 'Ballade', Op. 60: II. Interludium. Allegro, molto sostenuto, misterioso
  6. Medtner - Piano Concerto No. 3 in E minor, 'Ballade', Op. 60: III. Finale. Allegro molto, svegliando, eroico - Andante con moto tranquillo - Allegro molto - Coda: Maestoso, ma appassionato

Yevgeny Sudbin, piano
Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra
Andrew Litton, conductor

Date: 2014
Label: BIS

Other recordings of Medtner's 3rd Piano Concerto by Demidenko and Tozer. Also another Scriabin's by Demidenko



It’s perhaps not surprising that Yevgeny Sudbin should be drawn to Nikolai Medtner: both are Russian-born, both ended up in the UK. They also share a link with Germany, Medtner in terms of ancestry, Sudbin in his studies. Sudbin offers a characteristically thought-provoking pairing of Scriabin, cheerfully pointing out in his engaging booklet-notes that ‘one could not possibly imagine the two becoming friends of any kind’.

The concertos here find Scriabin in youthful mode and Medtner near the end of his life. Heard ‘blind’ you’d never guess that Medtner’s Third, which has an unconventional fantasia-like structure, dated from the Second World War. He was fundamentally a man born out of his time (the only reason, surely, why his music isn’t much better known). Sudbin has found in Andrew Litton a wonderful comrade-in-arms and the characterisation offered by his Bergen Philharmonic is one of the pleasures of this recording. The interplay between pianist and orchestra is unfailingly chamber-musical and reactive. There were times when I wanted a greater degree of vehemence from the pianist (in the manner of Demidenko and – though he’s hampered by a cloudy recording – Scherbakov), not least at the outset of the very brief ‘Interludium’. In the finale, Demidenko’s uncompromising drive gives this long movement real shape (and his way with the perky theme at 1'30" in is winning), though Sudbin is unfailingly felicitous and highly reactive, which brings its own rewards.

In his notes Sudbin warns against thinking of Scriabin’s Piano Concerto as ‘Chopinesque’, though ironically it’s these qualities that characterise his own reading, the filigree beautifully brought off. Their relatively broad tempo for the slow-movement theme (more generous than Dobrowen for Solomon) works because Litton brings out the felicities of Scriabin’s scoring to such effect. And they surmount the challenges of the arguably over-extended finale, making light of the awkward rhythmic and textural shifts of gear. Solomon takes a different approach in his classic recording, steadier but rhythmically more strong-jawed. Add to this a finely detailed recording that puts Sudbin centre stage but not overly forward and you have a fascinating addition to the catalogue.

-- Harriet Smith, Gramophone

More reviews:
BBC Music Magazine  PERFORMANCE: ***** / RECORDING: *****


Nikolai Medtner (5 January 1880 [O.S. 24 December 1879] – 13 November 1951) was a Russian composer and pianist. A younger contemporary of Sergei Rachmaninoff and Alexander Scriabin, he wrote a substantial number of compositions, all of which include the piano. His works include fourteen piano sonatas, three violin sonatas, three piano concerti, a piano quintet, two works for two pianos, many shorter piano pieces, a few shorter works for violin and piano, and 108 songs including two substantial works for vocalise. Despite his conservative musical tastes, Medtner's compositions and his pianism were highly regarded by his contemporaries.


Alexander Scriabin (6 January 1872 [O.S. 25 December 1871] – 27 April [O.S. 14 April] 1915) was a Russian composer and pianist. Influenced early in his life by the work of Frédéric Chopin, Scriabin composed works that are characterised by a highly tonal idiom. Later in his career, independently of Arnold Schoenberg, Scriabin developed a substantially atonal and much more dissonant musical system. Scriabin was influenced by synesthesia, and associated colours with the various harmonic tones of his atonal scale.


Yevgeny Sudbin (born 19 April 1980 in Saint Petersburg, Russia) is a Russian concert pianist. He studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin, the Purcell School and the Royal Academy of Music. Among his teachers are Christopher Elton, Murray Perahia, Leon Fleisher, Stephen Kovacevich, Dmitri Bashkirov, Fou Ts'ong and Stephen Hough. Sudbin's recordings for BIS have met with critical acclaim and are regularly featured as CD of the Month by BBC Music Magazine or Editor’s Choice by Gramophone.


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