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Scriabin & Medtner: Piano Concertos
Sudbin’s recordings of Medtner’s first and second piano concertos (BIS1588 and BIS1728) were widely admired, with the first disc nominated for a Gramophone Award and the second being dubbed an “Essential Recording” in BBC Music Magazine.
His recordings of Scriabin have similarly garnered universal acclaim. The liner notes, written by Sudbin, state with conviction that both concertos are “absolute masterworks – unjustly underperformed and constantly underappreciated”.
With great empathy for, and insights into each composer. Yevgeny Sudbin takes on the great challenges – musical as well as technical – posed by the two works, with the eminent support of the Bergen Philharmonic and their chief conductor Andrew Litton.
“Sudbin is wonderfully dashing in the Scriabin, where the rapturous, refined playing of the Bergen Philharmonic under Andrew Litton also really comes into its own, especially in the finale, but he makes heavier weather of the much darker, almost gruff Medtner; the performance never really takes wing” The Guardian, 8th January 2015 ***
“In Litton and the Bergen orchestra, Sudbin has found like-minded partners who are willing to follow him in the music’s liquid flow, and the result is a performance that is an exultantly truthful tribute to Scriabin’s individuality.” The Telegraph, 18th January 2015 *****
“These are superb performances of two underestimated concertos...this is unquestionably an engaging account, Sudbin's glistening and expressive virtuosity matched by Andrew Litton and the Bergen Philharmonic's idiomatic playing...Even more revelatory is their performance of Medtner's Third...[Sudbin] seems alert to its every note and creates a compelling journey.” BBC Music Magazine, February 2015 *****
“In the Scriabin Concerto, Sudbin displays formidable technical virtuosity, in a performance contrasting emotional intensity with melancholy and tranquillity...I cannot understand why this melodious concerto is not taken up by more pianists...On the evidence here, there is no doubt in my mind that Sudbin’s discographical legacy is going from strength to strength.” MusicWeb International, 13th February 2015
“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.” Gramophone Magazine, March 2015
BBC Music Magazine
Concerto Choice - February 2015
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The Romantic Piano Concerto 2 - Medtner
“This splendid disc is given a fine recording, good orchestral playing from a Scottish orchestra under a Polish conductor and, above all, truly coruscating and poetic playing from the brilliant young Russian pianist Nikolai Demidenko. Medtner was a contemporary and friend of Rachmaninov; he settled in Britain in the 1930s, and like Rachmaninov he was an excellent pianist. But while the other composer became immensely popular, Medtner languished in obscurity, regarded as an inferior imitation of Rachmaninov who wrote gushing music that was strong on gestures but weak on substance. The fact is that he can be diffuse (not to say long-winded) and grandiose, and memorable tunes are in short supply, so that his music needs to be played well to come off.
When it is, there's much to enjoy, as here in Demidenko's hypnotically fiery and articulate accounts.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Medtner plays Medtner Volume 2
Archive recordings of the 1940s
“There’s hardly another composer who would take a more solitary place in the family of Russian musicians” wrote Medtner’s contemporary and music critic Vyacheslav Karatygin.
Medtner was born to a family of intellectuals of German descent who had long before settled in Russia. Even after three decades of emigration, he remained an essentially Russian musician till the end of his days. If Medtner’s music could not boast a great number of followers, it irrepressibly attracted such deep and subtle, though very different, artists as Rachmaninov and Myaskovsky.
Medtner’s music organically combined traditions of German and Russian music. Along with Rachmaninov and Scriabin, Medtner was an outstanding interpreter of his own works and one of those who started a new era of Russian piano music.
According to the prominent musician, pianist and thinker Heinrich Neuhaus, Medtner as a pianist “won himself an unfading glory… I couldn’t help feeling that it wasn’t just a marvelous pianist playing but a great musician, excellent composer, that his thought and ear had a total control of his fingers and his phenomenal virtuosity, and that it was an inspired pianism”.
This second volume of the anthology includes three Medtner’s piano concertos recorded in the 1940s in London (the second and third ones were conducted by Issay Dobrowen, one of the renowned representatives of Russian musical emigration). The set also features one of the most original of the composer’s works – Sonata-Ballade, Op.27.
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The Romantic Piano Concerto Vol 5
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“The strong Russian flavour of the ornate writing is evident, as is the composer's masterly understanding of the piano. Listening to the composer himself in the Second's first molto cantabile atempo, ma expressivo or the Third's dolce cantabile is to be made doubly aware of his haunting and bittersweet lyricism. The streaming figuration in the Second Concerto's Romanza is spun off with deceptive ease, a reminder that while Medtner despised obvious pyrotechnics he was a superb pianist. Two exquisitely played encores are included (the ambiguous poetry of the A minor Arabesque could be by no other composer), and the 1947 recordings have been superbly remastered.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
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Medtner - Piano Concertos Nos. 1 & 3
“Naxos completes its Medtner concerto cycle with Scherbakov. To have such Romantic richness – once the province of specialists – offered on a bargain label is cause for celebration in itself; to have it performed and recorded with such tireless commitment is a double blessing.
That said, the performances on the first disc suffered from the soloist's poetic parsimony and an oppressive ill balance from Naxos. But this second disc is successful on all counts. Scherbakov, praised by Richter and recently hailed as a 'modern Rachmaninov', is now more attuned to Medtner's widely fluctuating idiom, complementing his virtuosity with inwardness and conviction. Sample the passage beginning at 6'30" in the Third Concerto's finale and you'll hear the sort of eloquence that warms the hearts of all true Russians.
Commissioned by Moiseiwitsch, an early and courageous champion of Medtner, the Third Concerto, subtitled 'Ballade', flows like some primeval river of the imagination, its burgeoning course inspired by Lermontov's WaterSpirit, while the First Concerto's often epic gestures blend a bittersweet Russian Romanticism with themes of an almost Elgarian cut. Scherbakov's agility at, say, the con moto (8'38") is never at the expense of a composer whose bravura is always poetically motivated. Lovers of Romantic piano concertos need look no further.” Gramophone Classical Music Guide, 2010
“Scherbakov, praised by Richter and recently hailed as a 'modern Rachmaninov', is now more attuned to Medtner's widely flunctuating idion, complementing his unquestioned virtuosity with inwardness and conviction… you will hear the sort of eloquence that warms the hearts of all true Russians.” Gramophone Magazine
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