It has been a while since I wrote a post on Nikolai Medtner. Since I will be playing some of his music in an upcoming Rallentando concert, I figured now would be a great opportunity to talk about one of his works that I will be performing.
One of the things that I love the most about Medtner's piano music is the ethereal lyricism that you can find in many of his works. I am currently working on his Sonata Triad, Op. 11, a group of three one-movement sonatas, and it seems to have countless of beautiful melodies and themes. I wrote a post on the first movement earlier this summer, so check it out. I also performed it earlier last year.
As I mentioned in that earlier post, the work was inspired by Goethe's poem, Trilogy of Passion. In fact, the following Goethe excerpt appeared as an epigraph underneath the Sonata:
"And the heart, thus unburdened, straightaway realizes that it is still alive and beating and wishing to beat and offer itself up in pure gratitude for this overwhelming gift. It was then that one felt –– oh, were it forever so! ––the double joy of music and love."
To me, this is a great work that ties poetry to music. In Sonata Triad, Medtner is clearly modeling his work to Goethe's set of poems. The last movement in Medtner, which is what I am currently preparing for my next concert, corresponds to the finale in Goethe's, titled, "Atonement."
Medtner is as at best in this movement. We hear tranquil, almost even contemplative and nostalgic, melodies that seamlessly transfer from one section to another. To me, this piece certainly has Ballade-like qualities, where the music unfolds in a more narrative and story-telling kind of way.
Here is a verse from Goethe's, "Atonement," from Trilogy of Passion:
Passion brings reason,—who can pacify
An anguished heart whose loss hath been so great?
Where are the hours that fled so swiftly by?
In vain the fairest thou didst gain from Fate;
Sad is the soul, confused the enterprise;
The glorious world, how on the sense it dies!
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