Medtner: Complete Violin & Piano Sonatas

Medtner-itis is something you catch from other Medtner nerds. Patient zero was Medtner himself, apparently criticised for writing works titled "Fairy Tale" during the first world war. That kind of myopia did pay dividends, though. While sticking stubbornly both to tonality and to a late-romantic idiom, he also developed his own style to many high points. Other times he out-Medtnered himself, as with the third violin sonata here: chock full of thrilling ideas but soooo long and over-developed, as if he got carried away with its perfect construction and forgot about the listener. "Not a note out of place!" I imagine he might have said, it's just that there's just so many of them... But never mind, the first and second sonatas are gobsmacking, played here with incredible finesse and verve. You get more than you paid for with this music, long and virtuosic for both instruments, which means it risks bogging down, but these two players wring every last drop of juice out of the scores: you hear all the details but with a definite sense of the big picture, and where the music is aggressive there's no padding at all — certain parts even come off with an almost sexual sense of danger like in a tango, something I've never felt in other performances of this otherwise lushly-colored music.

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