The music of Russian composer Nikolai Medtner has experienced some degree of revival since the year 2000, but it has been mostly his piano music, challenging even for the virtuosos of today, that has been heard. The songs on this collection are not common items, and they're well worth the time and money of song aficionados. In one respect they're what you would expect from Medtner: the accompaniments are not just distinctive but have a kind of independent existence that is perhaps the most unusual feature of the music. Pianist Iain Burnside walks this tightrope effectively as the music develops from seemingly simple material in unexpected ways. He quotes one of his young singers as saying that the music "made sense until you started playing." Although the presentation is chronological, Medtner's style did not change much over the course of his career, but it differed substantially according to whether he was setting German poetry (which he left untranslated) or Russian. Sample and contrast one of his Goethe settings (Op. 15 and Op. 18) with their overtones of the German lied tradition, bent to Russian ends. Burnside does well to collect a group of young singers, each suited to particular songs, and put his own piano at the center of the proceedings: this was the technique followed by Medtner himself, who made the first recordings of many of these works, with, among others, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. This release contains about half Medtner's total output of 108 songs, and it makes you want to hear the rest. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2