Russian Pianist and Composer

Nikolai Medtner was a pianist, schooled in the tradition of Anton Rubinstein and Theodor Leschetizky, taught by Paul Pabst (greatly admired by Liszt, Anton Rubinstein and Tchaikovsky), Vasily Safonov (who also taught Scriabin, and Josef and Rosina Lhévinne), and Vassily Sapellnikoff.

Nikolai Medtner was a composer, taught by Sergei Taneyev whose other pupils included Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Reinhold Glière, Paul Juon and Julius Conus. The language of the piano writing of Rachmaninov and Scriabin can be detected in his music. And yet his music is rarely performed and it is not widely known that he was one of the great pianists of the 20th Century.

But Medtner has a following. There are those, like me, who stumbled across his recordings years ago when the living memory of this great musician was still fresh. Back then his recordings were almost impossible to find, but I remember quite vividly the excitement of discovering a dusty album in an obscure corner of a neighborhood record shop, and the interested look I would get from the shop keeper when he saw what it was I was clutching to my bosom for fear of having it taken away from me. Today much of his music has been recorded but it is still very difficult to find the records he made himself.

Medtner's pianism is amply demonstrated in the recordings I will share with you. However, because of the fact that he only plays his own music in these performances, and you are probably not familiar with the music, his excellence as a pianist could be obscured.

Persevere. Getting to know this music is worth the effort, and the first few offerings should be enough to convince you to go on to the others.

As I said, Nikolai Medtner has a following, and his admirers have generously shared their treasures with us. In addition to numerous recordings of Medtner playing his own compositions, there are quite a few by other great pianists including Maria Yudina, Emil Gilels and Benno Moiseiwitsch. A special treat is the performance of Medtner's 6th Piano Sonata by Evgeny Svetlanov, a brilliant and very well known Russian conductor whose piano playing was entirely unknown to me.

The result is that a considerable retrospective of Medtner's music is at hand. You can hear him play all three of his piano concerti , important works that should be in the repertoire, many of the piano sonatas and the Fairy Tales and Forgotten Melodies as played by other fine pianists, and a recording of one of his songs in which Medtner accompanies Elisabeth Schwarzkopf ends this page.


from Fairy Tales, Op 8
1 Andantino
recorded in 1931

Fairy Tale in E minor, Op 14~2 "March of the Paladin"
recorded in 1930

Fairy Tales, Op 20 (1909)
recorded in 1930

1 in B♭ major

2 in B minor "Campanella"

Fairy Tale, Op 26~3
recorded in 1936

Fairy Tale, Op 34~3 "Wood Goblin"
recorded in 1936

"Danza Festiva" in D major 3 from Forgotten Melodies, Op 38 (1916-22)

1926 Duo-Art piano roll

recorded in 1931

Forgotten Melodies, second cycle, Op 39 (1918-20)
recorded in 1947

4 "Canzona Matinata"

5 "Sonata Tragica" in C minor
i Allegro Risoluto

"Danza Jubilosa" 4 from Forgotten Melodies, Op 40 (1918-20)
recorded in 1931

"Hymn in praise of toil" in C major, Op 49~1 (1926-28)
Novelle in C minor, Op 17~2 (1908-09)
recorded in 1947

Fairy Tales, Op 51 (1928)

1 in D minor
recorded in 1947

2 in A minor
recorded in 1936

3 in A major
recorded in 1930

5 in F♯ minor
recorded in 1930

"The Muse", Op 29~1
with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, soprano

Here is my new book, a murder mystery with a musical polemic

and the audiobook version

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