Medtner: Piano Sonata in a minor op 38 no.1 "Reminiscenza"

Duration : 12 minutes

In celebration of the 4th Evgeny Svetlanov International Conducting Competition, pianist Boris Berezovsky performs the Sonata for piano in a minor op.38 no.1 by Medtner. Live concert at the Radio France Auditorium, recorded on 6 September 2018. .

Born on 24 December 1879 according to the Julian calendar (used in Russia at the time), Nikolaï Medtner was several years younger than Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, two composers by whom he was overshadowed for years until his music was brought back to the public's attention, due largely to the performances of the pianist Emil Guilels but also to those of Svetlanov who, as a pianist, sought to defend and promote this music. 

A recitalist and concert performer, Medtner was also a professor at the Moscow conservatory but decided in 1921 to leave Soviet Russia. He lived in the United States and in Paris before finally moving to London, where he remained till his death. He had the great fortune of gaining the support of the Maharajas of Mysore (in the Indian state of Karnataka), allowing him to record his own compositions.

Most of Medtner's works (fourteen sonatas, three concertos, chamber works, a variety of melodies) were written for the piano, or include a piano. Explained briefly, they display a violence reminiscent of Scriabin, an effusion similar to Rachmaninoff (who held Medtner in very high esteem and, upon his arrival to the United States in 1917, greatly supported him during his American tours), but also a nostalgia of the music of Brahms. Medtner never agreed with the musical practices of his contemporaries, as explained in his book The Muse and the Fashion (1935), in which he defends "the sacred laws of the eternal Art". As described by pianist Alexander Paley, "through his origins, he represents the union of a Russian soul and a German spirit. Far be it for me to minimise his art of melodic invention, but none can deny that his genius resides above all in a very Germanic style of polyphony."

Medtner's tenth sonata, known as the Sonata-reminiscenza, opens the cycle of « Forgotten Melodies », containing eight other shorter pages, each entitled danza ou canzona, except the last, Alla reminiscenza, reference to the sonata's original subtitle. This last sonata opens with a motif in the form of a Brahmsian ballade, with the heading Allegretto tranquillo. The music is quickly marked by passionate accents, gradually leading to a tumultuous and more agitated episode, in which Medtner continuously searches for colour and intensity before slowly returning to the tender atmosphere of the opening.

Written by Christian Wasselin

Medtner, Rachaminov, Svetlanov, Tchaïkovski... Tribute concert for Evgeny Svetlanov
Full concert
Medtner, Rachaminov, Svetlanov, Tchaïkovski... Tribute concert for Evgeny Svetlanov
Auditorium de Radio France