First, a tip of the hat to the eminent British music critic Martin Anderson who for the past several years has been putting his money where his mouth is with the Toccata Classics label [...] whose stated purpose is to be "the label dedicated to producing recordings of the vast amount of top-notch classical music that the concert halls and major record companies are ignoring. We bring you revelations from the staggering quantity of good music that doesn't otherwise get heard, from obscure Baroque cantatas via overlooked Romantic symphonies to composers once hidden behind the Iron Curtain." Among its revelatory releases are the issues featuring music by virtually unknown Baltic composers including the composer of the music on this disc, the Latvian Janis Medins (1890-1966).
Here we have a collection of twenty-four short piano pieces called 'Dainas'. The daina is a traditional form of Latvian music and poetry, the latter often referring to pre-Christian Baltic mythology. The music makes use of Latvian folk melodies and rhythms, often employing modal or highly chromatic harmonies and drones. It tends to be narrative rather than strophic. Although there are twenty-four dainas the set does not use the historical precedent of moving through all the major and minor keys (as in Bach, Chopin and Shostakovich). This music is very much late-romantic in effect but with the idiosyncrasies of Latvian folk-melodies and -rhythms. It may not be 'great' music in the usual sense of that word, but it is charming, engaging and very much worth hearing.
The fine pianist here is Jonathan Powell, a British musician who has long lived and performed in Poland and who has previously recorded music of the Russian pianist/composer Alexander Goldenweiser Alexander Goldenweiser: Piano Music, Volume 1 which I reviewed positively here at Amazon.