NIKOLAI MEDTNER (1880-1951) Russian Pianist and Composer
Nikolai Medtner was a pianist, schooled in the tradition of Anton Rubinstein and Theodor Leschetizky, taught by
(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
, important works that should be in the repertoire, many of 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.
NILOLAI MEDTNER PLAYS
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