Medtner early 1900s Nikolai Karlovich Medtner

New Year message

This should really have come out on January 5 to coincide with Medtner's birthday — but I had only just returned from three weeks in India, naturally including a visit to the Palace of Mysore. The Medtner materials are unfortunately inaccessible even to those with Palace connections, but there are several portraits of HH Jayachamaraja Wodeyar.

The website has now been running for two and a half years. Over the past 12 months the hit rate has quadrupled, so either the site is becoming better known or Medtner's music is experiencing a surge in popularity! Completing the discography was a major task of 2008, but I'm satisfied that it's over 99% complete and I'll be turning my attention to other projects in 2009. Top of the list is to digitise my Medtner LPs, which I've been busy collecting over the past year. Most of these recordings have never been transferred to CD; not all are deserving, but the Kazantseva sonata-vocalise is a gem, and being out of copyright I will be able to upload it to the site. But there is a cloud on the horizon. In July 2008 the EU Commission published a proposal to increase copyright duration on recordings from 50 to 95 years. The proposal is currently working through the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, whose adoption is required. In the past the UK government's advisors have recommended keeping the term to 50 years, but in December the Culture Secretary announced that the government were recommending an increase to 70 years. Download the tracks on this site while you can!

Other plans for the site include the long-promised suggestions for building a library, and an overhaul of the biography. If I don't achieve all this in 2009 I will plead lack of time: I have a full time statistician's job, an unrelated hobbyist website to maintain, and I'd also like to spend more time at the piano. Meanwhile if a reader would like to contribute material on anything related to Medtner I'd be very happy to provide space.

I attended a number of concerts featuring Medtner in 2008, mostly given by young artists. All gave committed performances of a high standard. Medtner's future surely lies in the young: with the exception of a handful of advocates known to you all, most of my generation ignored Medtner, so it's encouraging to find so many pianists in their 20s and 30s taking up the cause. I have a couple of messages for this group. Firstly, please can we have more performances of sonatas other than the reminiscenza and the tragica? I can't be too critical as the reminiscenza was my own first work, but all the sonatas are rewarding and some of the others are no less accessible to audiences. The Op 22 used to be the most frequently performed sonata in days past, but there's also the Fairy-Tale Sonata Op 25 no 1 (the only sonata Rachmaninoff performed), the Op 30, and the Op 11 set. The same goes for recordings: I'm not sure we need too many more reminiscenzas, but the Op 5 and Op 30 sonatas each have only 4 recordings currently available (3 if you exclude the one dire performance in each opus). Secondly, please can you persuade some singers to take up the songs? Maya Sapone and Marcus Andrews' inspiring performance of the Op 37 set in the Blüthner Studios remains the only live performance of Medtner songs that I've heard. More vocal recordings are urgently needed too: it's scandalous that a great song like Op 45 no 1 doesn't have a single recording in the catalogue.

In London the Medtner event of the year was the performance of the second piano concerto by Boris Berezovsky with the Philharmonia under Andrew Davis. This is only the second performance in the UK since 1946 that I'm aware of, the other being by Demidenko in 1990. 2008 was a rather thin year for recordings, but the second volume of the Kayaleh/Stewart survey of the violin music has given much pleasure. Later I saw the same players live in the violin sonata no.2. On a personal note, it was good to meet five of my correspondents in three countries in person for the first time.

A Happy New Year to you all, and may Medtner continue to be a source of inspiration in 2009.

Chris Crocker
10 January 2009

Nikolai and Anna Medtner, Riga 1932

with Anna on tour, Riga 1932