Medtner, Nicolai (actually, Nikolai Kar-lovich)

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Medtner, Nicolai (actually, Nikolai Kar-lovich)

Medtner, Nicolai (actually, Nikolai Kar-lovich), notable Russian pianist and composer of German descent; b. Moscow, Jan. 5, 1880; d. London, Nov. 13, 1951. He first studied piano with his mother, and then with his uncle, Theodore Goedicke. In 1892 he entered the Moscow Cons., where he took courses with Sapelnikov and Safonov (piano) and Arensky and Taneyev (composition); graduated in 1900, winning the gold medal; that same year he won the Rubinstein prize in Vienna. For the next 2 years he appeared with much success as a pianist in the European capitals. Returning to Russia, he taught at the Moscow Cons. (1902–03; 1909–10; 1914–21). He then lived in Berlin and Paris before settling in London (1935). He made tours of the U.S. (1924–25; 1929–30) and the Soviet Union (1927). He publ, a collection of essays as Muza i moda (The Muse and Fashion; Paris, 1935; Eng. tr., 1951). In Russian music he was a solitary figure; he never followed the nationalist trend, but endeavored to create a new type of composition, rooted in both the Classical and the Romantic traditions; his sets of fairy tales in sonata form are unique examples of his favorite genre. He wrote his best compositions before he left Russia; although he continued to compose during his residence abroad, his late music lacks the verve and Romantic sincerity that distinguish his earlier works. He wrote almost exclusively for the piano and for the voice. A revival of his music was begun in Russia after his death, and a complete ed. of his works appeared in Moscow (12 vols., 1959–63).


3 piano concertos: No. 1 (1914–18; Moscow, May 12, 1918, composer soloist), No. 2 (1920–27; Moscow, March 13, 1927), and No. 3 (1940–43; London, Feb. 19, 1944, composer soloist); Piano Quintet (1904–49); 3 violin sonatas (1909–10; 1926; 1938); numerous piano pieces, including 34 Fairy Tales (1905–29), 6 sonatas (1896–1915), Sonaten-Triade (1904–08), Sonata romantica (1931–32), Sonata minacciosa (1931–32), and Sonata idillica (1935); also sets of piano pieces, including 4 Lyric Fragments (1910–11), 3 sets of Forgotten Melodies (1918–20), and 4 sets of Romantic Sketches for the Young (1932); also 107 songs.


V. Yakovlev, N. M. (Moscow, 1927); R. Holt, M. and His Music (London, 1948); idem, ed., N. M. (1879–1951): A Tribute to His Art and Personality (London, 1955); E. Dolinskaya, N. M. (Moscow, 1966); B. Martyn, N. M.: His Life and Music (Aldershot, 1995).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire