Nikolai Medtner was a Russian composer and pianist. Based on the Gregorian calendar, his birthday is listed as January 5, 1880. When he was born in Moscow, the Julien calendar was still in use and his birthday fell on December 24, 1879. Either way we look at it I guess he was a holiday baby. He passed away in November of 1951.
Taking piano lessons from family members at a young age, he started at the Moscow Conservatory at the age of 10 and graduated at the age of 20. Originally looking at becoming a professional pianist, he was drawn as well to composing and made that his focus. All of his published work includes the piano. His friend and contemporary, Sergei Rachmaninoff, was a big fan of Medtner’s work. Rachmaninoff arranged a US/Canada tour for Medtner in 1924. Medtner wasn’t enthralled with the commercial side of touring and eventually settled in London, England to teach, play, and compose.
Marc-André Hamelin has helped increase the popularity of Nikolai Medtner with his well received recordings of Medtner’s piano sonatas. Later in January we will have the pleasure of hearing Hamelin perform the Sonata in E Minor, Op. 25, No. 2, Night Wind on our stage, known as one of Medtner’s more difficult pieces.
On the other side of Medtner’s work are his 38 Skazki or Fairy Tales as they are called in English. Skazki means tale or legend and the inspiration for them is the Russian tradition of telling folk tales. Medtner is a musical storyteller. We will also get to experience this side of Medtner’s work this season when pianist Benjamin Grosvenor joins us in February and performs a couple of the Fairy Tales.
To learn more about Nikolai Medtner, visit http://www.medtner.org.uk.