This is the fourth volume in Geoffrey Tozer’s highly acclaimed survey of Medtner’s piano music. This album contains the greatest of Medtner’s piano sonatas, the Sonata in E minor ’Night Wind’. It is an extraordinarily difficult work to play - a challenge to any pianist - but a work of magnificent quality and marvellous invention.
Medtner is a composer who has, after years of neglect, recieved much attention in recent years. His music, brilliantly virtuosic and ardently romantic, is instantly enjoyable.
Medtner was born in Moscow in 1880 of German parents, and died in London in 1951, aged seventy-one. He was trained at the Moscow Conservatory studying piano under Safonov, who helped him become an exceptionally brilliant pianist. After a career as a concert pianist, he eventually settled in his native country and became a professor of piano at his old school. Most of his compositions are written for his instrument and they are most often compared with Rachmaninov’s. Medtner’s strong grasp of classicism is the most striking difference betwwen the two composers, though Medtner’s music is similarly charged with a great romantic ardour, and is highly inventive, rhythmically, harmonically and melodically.
This album includes both sonatas which make up his Opus 25, showing contrasting sides to this composer’s character, and a view of the world that pairs something pleasant and rustic with an abyss - very Medtnerian. The Sonate-Conte (1910-11) is popularly known in English as the Fairy Tale Sonata, and although he wrote both sonatas and fairy tales (of which the delightful Op 14 No 1 ’Ophelia’s Song’ is recorded here), this is the only time he combined the two titles. The Sonata in E minor (1911) has the reputation of being a fearsomely difficult work of great length, and exhusting to play, but it is music of magnificent quality and marvellous invention. It is regarded as the greatest of all Medtner’s sonatas and a challenge to any pianist. Medtner’s last sonata, the Sonate-Idylle of 1937, recorded here, is his only two-movement sonata. It is a charming work, written in the key of G, which always inspired this composer to write some of his most happy and carefree music. The Dithyramb, Op 10 No 2, finds the composer in exhuberant mode, with the exception of a more subdued middle section, and it completes this richly rewarding programme.