Medtner Piano Sonatas: a review from International Piano (May/June 2015)

Medtner’s 14 piano sonatas have been fairly well served on disc, with sets (in various degrees of completion) available by Hamelin(Hyperion), Fellegi (Marco Polo, download only), Tozer (Chandos), Paul Stewart (Grand Piano), Milne (CRD), and many more. They were composed between 1902 (the F minor Sonata, Op. 5) and 1937 (Ein Idyll, Op. 56).

The three recorded by Alessandro Taverna on this beautifully engineered disc are from late in the sequence, comprising the Sonata No. 10 in A minor (‘Reminiscenza’), from 1920, and the Sonata No. 12 in B-flat minor (‘Romantica’) and Sonata No. 13 in F minor (‘Minacciosa’) from 1930.

The ‘Reminiscenza’ and ‘Minacciosa’ are both single-span works, in these vivid interpretations around the 17 and 18-minute mark, while the ‘Romantica’ is in four substantial movements, the outer Andante con moto and Allegro non troppo almostnine minutes apiece, the central Scherzo and Meditazione five minutes each. Their character is completely distinct: the ‘Reminiscenza’, as its title suggests, is wistful, almost nostalgic in atmoshpere; the ‘Romantica’ is more extrovert and emotionally volatile; and the ‘Minacciosa’ is darker than the other, the harmonic writing more advanced. (Medtner considered it his ‘most contemporary composition’)

Arguably, these are the three finest of the 14, or at least of the later sonatas, and Taverna catches their differing moods with consummate skill. His range of touch and tone is beguilingly wide and he seems equally at home with each of them, whether in the mellifluous writing in the quieter sections of the ‘Reminiscenza’ and ‘Romantica’, or in the vibrant dance of the latter’s finale and the whole of the ‘Minacciosa’. With excellent sound, this is a highly recommendable release.

Guy Rickards

Int Piano SOMMCD0142 Medtner Taverna