Medtner in England Paints a Sympathetic Portrait

The title is accurate. Two of the three works in this release were composed when Nicolai first settled in England. The third, “Eight Songs” was started in 1921, but the bulk of them were composed in England.

Nicolai Medtner pianist/composer, and a younger contemporary of Sergei Rachmaninoff, he fled the 1917 Russian Revolution. But Medtner never achieved the same level of success as Rachmaninoff. 

It wasn’t due to lack of talent. Mednter was recognized as one of the piano greats of the early 20th Century. He was never comfortable touring and did so infrequently.

Medtner remained somewhat conservative as a composer. Like Rachmaninoff, his music was both well-constructed and accessible. Unlike Rachmaninoff, Medtner never seemed to push the boundaries. That conservatism may have hampered his music’s popularity over time.

Careful listening reveals Medtner to be an imaginative and subtly innovative composer. I was only familiar with Medtner’s piano music. This release provided me additional insights into his style. 

The Violin Sonata No. 3 in E minor is an ambitious piece. It runs about 43 minutes and is a solidly constructed piece. 

The music isn’t especially expansive, it just unfolds at its own pace. Medtner carefully sets up his motifs, providing coherence for the listener. Every time a theme returns, we know where we are.

The Sonata-Idylle in G major is subtitled Piano Sonata No. 14. But it’s far removed from the sonatas of the late Romantics. As the title suggests, this work is somewhat free-form. Medtner weaves together a musical narrative in an unconventional manner. 

Medter wrote quite a few art songs. His Op. 61, “Eight Songs on Russian and German Poems”  comes late in his career. These are straightforward melodies, here to deliver and illustrate the texts. 

Theodore Platt sings with a round, full tone. And yet his performance is a little understated, which is well-suited to these songs. 

Medtner in England
Natalie Lomeiko, violin; Alexander Karpeyev, piano; Theadore Platt, baritone
Somm Records SOMMSCD 0674

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