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Medtner Dukas Decaux

Marc-André Hamelin

Medtner Forgotten Melodies Hyperion CDA67578
Dukas & Decaux Hyperion CDA67513

Two new Hamelin releases by Marc-André Hamelin are worth considering. The issue separately on a single disc of the 'fill-ups' from Hamelin's boxed set of Nikolai Medtner's complete piano sonatas [Hyperion Hyperion CDA67221-4 4] is timely; Medtner is often recorded by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, but seems never quite to take his rightful place in the piano recital repertoire.

These Forgotten Melodies, originating from jottings of ideas for possible future use in notebooks c. 1919-20, make for delightful and rewarding listening.

There are some thematic cross-references in the first set, giving the sequence a certain coherence. The second group display intensities of very different emotions, Meditazione disquieting, tormented, Primavera exultant. Canzona matinata is related to the Sonata trajica which follows, and ends with a 'devastating coda' (Barrie Martin).

Hamelin revels in the pianistic virtuosity of this great composer/pianist and it is a pleasure to follow him in its mercurial changes of mood.

Paul Dukas presents a different challenge in his gigantic sonata, one of a type which Hamelin relishes. I had enjoyed it in the past (e.g. Artur Pizarro at Blackheath - and struggling through it myself at about quarter-speed!) but I found myself unsympathetic to it upon re-acquaintance; just too many notes and relentless working out of his material for three-quarters of an hour - 'a monster, running over 40 minutes, a continuously ultra-busy 40 minutes - not an easy piece to hear any more than it is to play' (Jan Narveson).

Another French 'monster sonata' which needs a good modern recording is Vincent D'Indy's *, which I also plod through on my piano, but have never heard it performed in recital. Who'll take it on?

For now, I found Hamelin's fill-ups more interesting; a group of strange pieces from the earliest 1900s by Abel Decaux (1869-1943), antedating La Mer & Schonberg's Das Buch der hangenden Garden which may well come to mind (Roger Nichols).

* re: D'Indy's Sonate : After searching for recordings for many years, I have discovered a useful, if sonically limited, Midi recording by Thomas Lefeldt to listen to with the Durand score . [PGW]

© Peter Grahame Woolf