Medtner: Complete Works For Violin And Piano Vol 1

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Nikolai Medtner's fortunes have risen on disc insofar as his solo piano works are concerned, while his substantial violin output remains relatively obscure. One explanation for this has to do with the fact that the Second and Third Violin Sonatas each take nearly 45 minutes to perform and require the utmost in technique, musicality, and concentration from both players.

The Third Sonata dates from 1938, and its basic melodic and rhythmic material draws upon Orthodox liturgical chants and gutsy folk-dances. A 1996 Erato recording with violinist Vadim Repin and pianist Boris Berezovsky has long held a reference position for its virtuoso bravura and paragraphic sweep. Laurence Kayaleh and Paul Stewart offer a different yet no less convincing point of view by way of slightly slower tempos, more lyrical rumination (their expansive, flexible parsing of the slow movement), plus thoughtful attention to detail.

You'll notice how Kayaleh projects the contrasts in the enormous first movement's themes by generously dipping into her vast portfolio of articulations and nuances, while Stewart differentiates various degrees of non-legato phrasing without ever exaggerating. While the Scherzo is more "meno" than "molto" vivace, the violin's ricocheting passagework gains melodic clarity and shape with extra breathing space, and the pizzicato chords truly speak. The players' tightly unified pacing in the finale's canonic passacaglia stands out for its easy contrapuntal repartée.

The smaller-scaled Nocturnes and the effective Heifetz arrangement of the B minor Fairy Tale also receive sensitive, poetic readings, where the timbre Kayaleh obtains from her two lowest strings has a memorable, viola-like richness. A warm ambience arises from Naxos' close microphone placement, and the pianist's booklet notes are informative and well written. Watch for the second and final volume.

--Jed Distler,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8570298

  • UPC: 747313029877

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Nikolai Medtner

  • Performer: Laurence Kayaleh, Paul Stewart