Medtner early 1900s Nikolai Karlovich Medtner

New Year message

For those of us fortunate to attend, the highlight of 2011 was surely the festival of Russian music in Saarbrücken, with a special emphasis on Medtner, conceived and organised by Ekaterina Derzhavina, Thomas Duis and Christoph Flamm. The list of performers read like a roll call of most of our best-known Medtnerians, but the younger generation were represented too. It was good to hear so many songs as they are least performed of Medtner's works. Yana Ivanilova shared vocal duties with the young bass Tobias Schabel whose two selections of German songs included some rarities: op.18 no.6, op.46 no.4 and op.19a no.2. The first two are not amongst Medtner's best songs, but it was good to hear them for the first time. However both op.19a songs are exceptionally beautiful and evocative and it is sad that they are so ignored. The concert on Nov 13 will be broadcast by the German radio station SR-2, probably in January. I may be unable to get a recording, so if anyone else manages to record the concert please could they get in touch? Free software for downloading SR broadcasts can be obtained from There was a shorter Medtner festival in Moscow in the first week of January but it seems not to have been advertised outside Russia. As it happens I made my first ever visit to Moscow a week earlier and did not hear about the festival in time to change my plans.

There were concerto performances by Veronika Ilinskaya in London (no.3), Yakov Kasman in Kiev (no.2) and Ilya Poletaev in Toronto (no.3). I've had no reports of Poletaev's concert but the others were both enthusiastically received. Regrettably I missed the piano quintet by Alexander Karpeyev and the Idomeneo Quartet in London, probably the first in Britain since Steven Isserlis arranged a performance at Prussia Cove in 2007.

The first new Medtner recording of the year featured the complete sonatas on the Moscow Conservatory label. The project was the brainchild of Mikhail Voskresensky, who arranged for 14 students of the conservatory to be recorded in two concerts. As one might expect in an enterprise like this, quality is variable, but the young pianists have some interesting ideas. I particularly enjoyed Mikhail Turpanov in the sonata-romantica and Yuri Favorin in the Night Wind. The only other new Medtner recordings were by Chisato Kusunoki, whose second CD is a welcome successor to her first, and by Irina Shishkina, which I've not heard.

The most significant historical release was volume 7 of the St-Laurent Medtner series, which includes the first release of Medtner's recording of the piano quintet. The Oistrakh/Goldenweiser violin sonata no.3 was a welcome reissue. We finally got most of the 1981 concert by Richter and friends, originally broadcast on Soviet TV. Only the violin sonata no.1 with Oleg Kagan has previously been issued, although Richter's sonata-reminiscenza has been circulating unofficially for a while. The DVD is missing half the songs with Pisarenko but I can live without those.

As was widely predicted, the EU has decided to extend copyright on sound recordings from 50 to 70 years. It remains to be seen whether some historic Medtner recordings will disappear from the catalogue, but it must decrease the likelihood of seeing new ones. Member states have until September 2013 in which to implement the directive so it may not happen for a while.

As yet, I have no idea what 2012 will bring. It would be good if some of the recording projects announced in past years came to fruition. Perhaps Sudbin will record concerto no.3?

This page is three days late, I realise. Nevertheless, a Happy New (Medtner) Year to you all.

Chris Crocker
8 January 2011

bust of Medtner

bust in Medtner archive, Library of Congress
photo: Patrick Domico