Nikolai Medtner – The Muse







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Vittorio Forte continues his voyage of discovery through unusual and unjustly neglected piano repertoire with The Muse, an album devoted to the music of Nikolai Medtner. Forte immersed himself in Medtner’s music during the lockdowns of 2020, finding both solace and joy in getting to know this unfamiliar but exceptional music. The Muse takes its name from one of Medtner’s songs to words by Pushkin, and this release concludes with Forte’s own transcription of this piece. Medtner stands alongside Rachmaninov and Scriabin as among the foremost Russian composers of his time. Like them, Medtner’s output grew out of his formidable abilities as a pianist and thorough understanding of the instrument’s expressive range. Even so, he did not indulge in virtuosity for the sake of showmanship, but produced highly complex scores as a means of articulating his very particular vision. The release begins with Medtner’s Forgotten Melodies, Op. 38. The opening theme of the nostalgic ‘Sonata reminiscenza’ is used by Medtner to unify the other movements, especially the concluding ‘Alla reminiscenza’, and between these pieces comes a series of songs and dances of varying moods. Each of Medtner’s Four Lyrical Fragments Op. 23 occupies a distinct, often poignantly beautiful soundworld, representing another remarkable instance of the breadth of his invention. At the heart of the album we hear Medtner’s Skazki or Fairy Tales, Op. 51, which are remarkably fine and deserving of a much wider audience. On hearing the pieces at a private performance, Rachmaninov praised the Skazki, declaring that ‘Kolya’ was peerless in his ability to tell tales in music. Both Medtner and Rachmaninov composed a setting of Pushkin’s ‘Muza’ dedicated to the Armenian writer and activist Marietta Shaginyan. Medtner responds to Pushkin’s paean to the beloved muse with a fluid melody and delicious harmonies, which have been elaborated and enriched in Vittorio Forte’s transcription.


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