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Konstantin EIGES (1875–1950)
Piano Music
Two Skazki, Op. 12 (1914) [2:01 + 2:12]
Sonata-Poem No. 1, Op. 15 (1915) [12:28]
Ten Preludes, Op. 8 (c.1911) [11:43]
Two Poems, Op. 19 (publ. 1924) [5:25 + 3:40]
The Cuckoo, Op. 2 (c. 1905) [4:29]
Sonata-Poem No. 2 (publ. 1930) [7:43]
4 Pieces, Op. 14 (c. 1913) [8:56]
Theme and Variations, Op. 36 (1933) [9:42]
Jonathan Powell (piano)
rec. Jacqueline du Pré Music Building, Oxford, 2012
First recordings

The Ukraine-born composer Konstantin Romanovich Eiges belongs in the Medtner/Rachmaninov generation. His music is Russian, imperious, grand and late-romantic. It's more Tsarist than Communist.

On this attractive evidence Eiges did not change his stylistic spots as the years passed. There are none of the sound-changes we hear in the music of Frank Bridge. He held firm to what gripped his attention. Unlike Mossolov and Roslavets he was no modernist. Also he does not appear to have dabbled in dissonance or the Second Viennese school. The traditions of his contemporaries Scriabin, Rachmaninov and especially Medtner provided him with all the intellectual and emotional sustenance he craved.

Eiges is well worth exploring alongside similarly inclined composers such as Alexander Alexandrov (review review review), Sergei Bortkiewicz (review) and Issay Dobrowen (review), Further afield the English composers York Bowen (review review), R.S. Coke (review review) and Greville Cooke (review review), one way or another, plough a kindred landscape.

This is music that is aristocratic, confident and steeped in romantic endeavour and sentiment. It's also kindly in a way I sense but cannot define. Listen to the swirlingly big-hearted and richly endowed Sonata-Poems. The Medtner connection can be detected even in his choice of title: Sonata-Poem, Poème Idylle and Skazka but even if Eiges had chosen different titles the fellow feeling would have been clear. Listen to the Sonata-Poem No. 1 which rocks and lulls with Rachmaninovian ideas and treatments. This also surfaces in the Étude from the Op. 14 pieces. Paradoxically, only in the latest of these works do we encounter echoes of Chopin and an earlier tradition, especially that which manifests itself in the early works of Scriabin.

Before we leave this disc let me just remind readers of another Toccata/Powell CD which tracks a Baltic cousin of Eiges. The Latvian Jānis Mediņš has ways that are just as winning. Try his piano music on TOCC0097 (review).

This Eiges disc is superbly packaged and documented by Toccata. Jonathan Powell satisfies our curiosity about a composer whose music I had not until now ever heard and whose name was unknown to me. Toccata and Powell do these rare and treasurable things so well.

Rob Barnett



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