Nikolai Medtner: a ‘silly sentimentalist’?

Nikolai Medtner. For many music lovers no more than a name in the music history books. Except for the pianists, perhaps, because they cannot ignore Medtner. If only because he has written such beautiful pieces for the instrument, which immediately remind you of Rachmaninov and pianists like to include them in their repertoire. And that’s the cause. Because nobody can match Rachmaninov?

Medtner does. His pieces are no less virtuoso. And forget his genuine sentiment, that I prefer to call nostalgia. Although Medtner called himself a “silly sentimentalist”. But he had a lot more to offer. Just think of his songs, he composed no fewer than 107! Hundred and Seven! Why don’t we hear them? And why not? Because we’re one-eyed?

Fortunately, there are still artists who go beyond the usual Schuberts, Strausses and Schumanns. Ekaterina Levental is one of them. Wonderful singer, harpist, actress and performer who goes above and beyond. Not that she shies away from the standard repertoire, but she spreads her wings and looks beyond the horizon. Together with the pianist Frank Peters she took care of the songs of Medtner: the intention is that they will put all his songs on CD. Applause!

The first, titled Incantation, has just been released. The songs, based on the lyrics of Lermontov, Pushkin, Tyutchev and Fet were composed in the first decade of the last century and, how could it be otherwise, they are almost all about love. The unanswered love, the love that has passed, the pain that love can cause… Call me a jerk, but I can really cry about that. Not only because of those beautiful songs, but mainly because of the time for such songs has passed. Although there are sparks on the horizon that the expressed feelings are allowed again. The sentiment. The feeling.

But make no mistake: singing Medtner is not easy! This is due to the complexity of the music. The piano part is emphatically present, while vocal lines are mainly lyrical and modest, and that is what makes Medtner’s music attractive and challenging. Both performers fulfilled their task excellently.

I eagerly await the sequel. And as long as it lasts, this CD stays in my CD player.

English translation: Frans Wentholt

Nikolai Medtner
Incantation; Complete Songs Volume 1
Ekaterina Levental (mezzo-soprano), Frank Peters (piano)
Brilliant Classics 96056

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