Medtner early 1900s Nikolai Karlovich Medtner

New Year message

Tomorrow I will be celebrating Medtner's birthday after a year marred by the sad death of Geoffrey Tozer. There cannot be a reader who has not come across his many Medtner recordings. These started in 1991 with his award-winning set of the complete piano concertos with the London Philharmonic under Neeme Järvi. But I will remember Tozer for his CD of songs with Susan Gritton; their recording of the Sonata-vocalise was one of Tozer's personal favourites. On a happier note, Hamish Milne celebrated his 70th birthday and continues to be active in the concert hall and studio.

Of the new recordings, the highlight was the second piano concerto from Evgeny Sudbin with Grant Llewellyn and the North Carolina Symphony, top class in both performance and recording quality. Medtner featured on no fewer than 4 debut CDs, from pianists Chisato Kusunoki, Benjamin Moser, Anna Vinnitskaya and Veronika Ilinskaya. The last days of 2009 saw the announcement of a new Vista Vera CD featuring 34 Medtner songs recorded live in Moscow between 2005 and 2007. One hopes that the label will not hinder its circulation outside Russia, as it is the most significant vocal release since the Mirare CD made by three of the performers. I await delivery of my copy, but I have heard the Savenko/Berezovsky tracks before and would recommend the CD for those alone.

My plan to rewrite the biography and survey the discography remain unfulfilled. However I succeeded in digitising most of my Medtner LPs. I have just Malinina, Pluzhnikov and Binns still to do. Recordings more than 50 years old can be downloaded from the site. The project is incomplete as some discs continue to elude me, such as the vocal recordings by Simonova/Strzhizhivskaya and Sirotinina/Shraibman. I was at last able to hear most of Medtner's unpublished HMV recording of the piano quintet, having obtained a transcription of the tape in the British Library. I'm grateful to those correspondents who helped fund the exercise.

What will 2010 bring? Russia, which hosted Medtner festivals in 2006 and 2007, has been the main centre of activity in recent years. The Russian TV channel "Culture" was recently in London to make a 10 minute documentary about Medtner for the series "The Perfect Pitch" and plans to make a full film about Medtner in the future. Longer term there is the possibility of a Medtner competition in Moscow featuring the piano music, songs, and chamber music.

Finally, a word about the Medtner Society. There isn't one, despite a couple of links to the "UK Medtner Society" on other websites. However the site has been a meeting point for enthusiasts and people seeking information, so perhaps we have the beginnings of a virtual society.

A Happy New Year to you all.

Chris Crocker
4 January 2010

Emil and Nikolai Medtner, 1896

Emil and Nikolai, 1896