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Janis Medins: 24 Dainas (Preludes)

Medins / Powell
Release Date: 10/30/2012 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 97   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Janis Medins
Performer:  Jonathan Powell
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MEDINŠ 24 Dainas (Preludes) Jonathan Powell (pn) TOCCATA 0097 (72:27)

Latvian composer Jánis Medins (1890-1966) is lucky to have such a staunch advocate as Jonathan Powell, a pianist known through his association with the music of Sorabji (I remember a powerful complete performance by Powell of Sorabji’s Opus clavicembalisticum at London’s Purcell Room). Powell’s technique Read more fears nothing. Indeed, he seems to relish challenges. Medins’s time in Latvia dates from the Czarist era. He subsequently went to Sweden in 1944. The earliest of the pieces on display here dates from the early 1920s, soon after the short-lived First Latvian Republic, and the last hails from 1962. All have a seam of determined intensity in common. Simplicity when it comes (like the sixth and 10th pieces) is shot through with Russian-style yearning. As the Dainas move on, Medins moves his preference from modal harmonies to more overtly chromatic, Scriabinesque ones (No. 11 is a good example; also, the simplicity of No. 20 is more fragranced than the earlier examples). There seems to be a touch of the descending Rachmaninoff bells to No. 12, while No. 17 moves into the orbit of Bartókian ethnomusicology. The 18th piece is virtuoso in nature; it is difficult to imagine a more fiery account than Powell’s. There appears to be a Stravinskian influence to the playful No. 22. A list of Medins’s orchestral compositions suggests there is plenty more to mine (including the intriguingly titled Letters to Peer Gynt , a 50-minute Cantos for voice and orchestra and a brief 12-minute Rhapsody on Latvian Folk Songs for two violins and orchestra). Somewhat to my surprise, there are two other mentions of the name Medi?? in the Fanfare Archive: an organ piece on a Thorofon disc which appears not to be too inspiring overall ( Fanfare 18:2), and an orchestral spectacular conducted by Neeme Järvi (17:5). But such a chunk of Medins’s piano music as this Toccata disc offers is to be welcomed into the catalogs with open arms.

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Dainas (24), for piano (Preludes) by Janis Medins
Performer:  Jonathan Powell (Piano)
Period: Modern 
Venue:  Durham University Music School 
Length: 67 Minutes 34 Secs. 

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