CD of the week
NIKOLAI MEDTNER 1880–1951
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Op. 33
1. Allegro –
2. Tranquillo, meditamente –
3. Coda (Allegro molto)
4. Eight Stimmungsbilder (Mood Pictures), Op. 1: No. 1 Prologue ‘The Angel’
SERGEI RACHMANINOFF 1873–1943
Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18
5. I. Moderato
6. II. Adagio sostenuto
7. III. Allegro scherzando
8. Prelude in D major, Op. 23 No. 4
Jayson Gillham piano
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Benjamin Northey conductor
Recorded in the Iwaki Auditorium of the ABC’s Southbank Centre, 10-13 April 2017
Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2 / Medtner: Piano Concerto No. 1
Young Australian pianist Jayson Gillham presents his third album on ABC Classics, featuring the music of two Russian friends and piano virtuosi: Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2 – one of the most eternally popular pieces of classical music – and the rarely performed Piano Concerto No.1 by Nikolai Medtner, written just 15 years later. For these recordings, Gillham is joined in the studio by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and their Associate Conductor Benjamin Northey.
Nikolai Medtner (1880–1951) was a close friend of Rachmaninoff (they even dedicated various pieces to one another) but history has treated their music very differently. The great Australian pianist Geoffrey Tozer, who died in 2009, was a rare champion of Medtner’s music, and it was when Gillham was invited to feature in a documentary on Tozer’s life that he discovered Medtner’s work.
Dedicated to his mother, Medtner’s Piano Concerto No.1 was written during the First World War. The intense drama of the music – brought out in vivid technicolour in these recordings – is irresistible, but so too is the consolatory power of music. We discover the healing balm of music again in Angel, Medtner’s work for solo piano: a meditation, as Gillham puts it, on “the rediscovery of a divine song, half-remembered, half-forgotten, of a beauty that cannot be matched on earth”.
Gillham first performed Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No.2 with the MSO in Melbourne’s outdoor Sidney Myer Music Bowl: that concert was greeted with rapture by both the critics and a cheering audience of thousands. Renewing their association in the studio just weeks later, Gillham and the Orchestra unveil fresh richness in this beloved music. The concerto is paired with the contemporaneous Prelude Op.23 No.4, which shares the same “blissful contentment”.