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Medtner Revisited

Discussion in 'Repertoire' started by Rachfan, Oct 23, 2008.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Some have urged that I listen to Medtner, where I enjoy the Late Romantics so much. So, I did, having bought Geoffrey Tozer's Nikolai Medtner, Vol. 1 on Chandos and well as his other Chodos recording offering the three Concertos.

    So, here's the good news first: I liked the Concertos Nos. 1 and 3 quite a bit. There are some really lush sounds and wonderful moments there. (No. 2 did not make nearly as much of an impression on me though.) Would I put them in the same league as the four Rachmaninoff Concerti? Or Scriabin's Concerto? For my musical taste, no.

    Then I listened to a slug of the Fairy Tales. My lifelong favorite form has been the character piece, including miniatures, although I play sonatas too. These Fairy Tales did not really captivate me. My litmus test for truly loving a piece of music is that upon hearing it for the very first time, I'm overcome by an obsession to obtain the score and learn it immediately. These Fairy Tales were of mere passing interest--nothing very memorable or stirring there.

    The Sonatas in Am and Gm were OK, but I was not blown away.

    To be fair, I listened to all of these three (3) times, thinking the music might somehow grow on me... but it didn't.

    A sidebar: I also have here the Dover edition of Mednter's "Complete Fairy Tales for Piano Solo". There seemed to be pieces played on the CD that do not appear at all in this so-called "complete" edition! And, a couple of times when I would turn to the opus and number given on the CD menu, there seemed to be no correlation between what I was hearing and the score!

    More importantly, I stopped to ponder why it is that I'm really moved by most of the Late Romantic repertoire, but that Medtner's music seems to leave me cold. I believe it's because all of us don't like everything. Beyond that, in respect to this composer, I find that he often writes in a linear idiom with embellishments that suggest that he is a late 19th/20th century Bach. If that is a fair assessment, then that presupposes that to enjoy Medtner, one would have to have some fondness for Bach. I don't! In my youth I had to learn Bach along with other pieces from the Viennese Classics, Romantic, Impressionistic, and Modern eras to meet requirements for the National Piano Playing Auditions which I entered for 10 years. I believe that my playing of Bach was good; however, I viewed it as a duty, a chore, and often drudgery. Not having to play Bach after I was on my own was like a life sentence being lifted. I've never played it since.

    The Medtner "Sklarzi" (spelling? but doesn't matter as it's a fanciful word only) will arrive soon, and I'll listen to those pieces as well, rest assured. But at this moment, I don't see myself rushing to play any Medtner, where there is the extraordinarily beautiful and inspiring music of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Bortkiewicz, Catoire, and Liapunov. Life is way too short while the piano repertoire is too vast. Given that, the older I get the more I focus on depth rather than breadth of the piano literature. Thus, I specialize in what I LOVE to play now.

    David
     
  2. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Raul,

    Thanks for taking time to reply and post all those links to YouTube performances. I just finished listening to them all. Mostly I enjoyed the Sonata Tragica, even more the Sonata Triad, and that last piece, the tale "Campanella". I must say that this last one was unique to all of music--very masterfully composed and dramatic with a sense of dread. It seemed like the inexorable march of time, often suggested by the incessant mechanical movements of the clock, the ultimate destination being the End of Time. I have the music here and I will have to play through some of it. Thanks for introducing me to these pieces.

    David
     

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