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This superb coupling pays tribute to the unstinted admiration of Rachmaninov for Medtner and vice versa (even when Medtner languished in obscurity). Hamelin’s performances are a revelation in the sense that his legendary command is always at the service of a poetic and musical impulse. In the Rachmaninov, his playing is suffi ciently eloquent and red-blooded to send one climax after another soaring and expanding. The opening is broadly paced and inflected (the reverse of many glib alternatives), after which his technical and musical mastery declare themselves in every bar. His sprint through the cadenza’s intricate patterning (he chooses the less ornate of the two) builds to a thunderous apotheosis. He allows time in the Intermezzo’s skittering scherzando variation for every note to tell, and his weight and muscularity in the launch of the finale are, again, a powerful antidote to more frenetic readings. Less overtly romantic than Gilels or Cliburn, less driven than Argerich, Hamelin’s performance is more notable for its breadth and nobility.

In the Medtner, the pianist surpasses alternative recordings by Demidenko and even by the composer himself, taking the composer’s outwardly discursive idiom by the scruff of the neck yet never at the expense of musical quality. Together with his four-disc set of the Piano Sonatas, Hamelin he could hardly have made a more persuasive case for Medtner. Orchestra and conductor do the soloist proud, and Hyperion’s sound is as immaculate as ever with a flawless balance between pianist and orchestra. This could easily become my record of the year.

BRYCE MORRISON Read the full review on Agora Classica


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