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Medtner: Sonata-Ballade in F# Major, No.8 (Tozer)

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It is almost trite to say that Medtner's work needs repeated listening to grow on the ear, but the Sonata-Ballade is one of his pieces that is quite absorbing from the first listen, featuring a pastoral theme, (early) Scriabinesque writing, and a scintillating finale. Medtner can quite easily be seen as an impressionistic or episodic Rachmaninoff, but with melodies that are typically short, motivic, built around thirds, and often decorated with brusque dotted rhythms. The sense of many of his sonatas, however, seems to me to be that of very late (contrapuntal) Beethoven. Like Rachmaninoff, Medtner was very gifted at counterpoint, but like late Beethoven, and unlike Rachmaninoff, he sought to deploy it in fairly rigorous form to create dramatic episodes in a sonata's overall scheme. Tozer plays this entire thing with incredible generosity (again, a rather Beethovenian sort of thing), fine dynamic control, and clarity, especially in the denser passages. The playing from 15:59 onwards (the huge fugue) is especially remarkable, and the final passages are very thrilling.