Medtner early 1900s Nikolai Karlovich Medtner

New Year message

In a quieter year for Medtner activity, my personal highlight was a performance of Medtner's concerto no.3 by Simon Callaghan with the Slaithwaite Philharmonic under Benjamin Ellin. At the time I thought this might be the first UK performance since 1952, but I've since learned that Malcolm Binns performed it with the BBC Northern Symphony Orchestra under Raymond Leppard in 1981. Veronika Ilinskaya will be performing the same work at the Royal Academy next week, so it's remarkable to get two UK performances of the third concerto after a gap of 30 years. It would be nice if these events heralded a revival in the work's fortunes. There have been few overseas performances of concerto no.3 outside Russia, but readers within reach of Toronto can look forward to one by Ilya Poletaev on June 4.

The only new recording to come to my notice was a disc by Horostovsky/Ilja featuring three of the better known songs. I hesitate to say this was the only new Medtner release of 2011 because every so often a correspondent will point out that my discography has omitted a Fairy Tale on Ruritania Records or whatever. Nevertheless this must be the thinnest year for Medtner recordings for two decades.

The dearth of new Medtner recordings was mitigated by some important reissues of Medtner's own recordings of 1930-50. Yves St-Laurent is a real enthusiast for 78s who is building a library of CD transfers on his St-Laurent Studio label. The Medtner Collection runs to six volumes and includes most of the existing recordings made by Medtner in his lifetime, including the piano concerto no.1 which Testament never got around to releasing. St-Laurent uses no filtering, thus preventing the harmonic distortion and loss of 'presence' suffered by so many commercial transfers. Fidelity is maximised by using an exact rotation speed, choosing a stylus appropriate to the label and condition of the disc, finding the ideal equalization curve and re-centering the hole for each side of the disc to eliminate pitch wobble. Compare the EMI and St-Laurent transfers of the Schwarzkopf–Medtner songs and you will see the difference. Another transfer of these songs and of the concerto no.1 (also from 78s rather than the Melodiya LP) is offered by Paul Terry on his Historical Recordings website; I have not heard those.

I am conscious that I have not added very much new content to the website. I fear this state of affairs will continue for a while. I have been building a library of Medtner editions, but it is a slow process and I lack some early ERM and Jurgenson editions (which can differ from later 1920s versions) that would enable me to produce a complete listing of engravings for each work with key variations. I am still trying to complete my collection of LPs. I obtained Simonova/Strzhizhivskaya, but a few other LPs continue to elude me. A rare copy of the 4 LP Melodiya set containing Yakov Flier's 1959-60 reminiscenza sold for an astronomical price, so I have yet to hear his interpretation.

I hope you will lift your glass with mine on January 5th. A Happy New Year to you all.

Chris Crocker
3 January 2011

baby Nikolai

baby Nikolai