Violin Sonata No.1 in b minor, Op.21
Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) was born in Moscow and studied piano with his mother before entering the Moscow Conservatory, having studied with Sergei Taneyev among others. A first rate pianist, he nonetheless, at the urging of Taneyev, gave up the career as a performer and turned to composition. Medtner stayed in Russia after the Revolution until 1924 at which point he embarked on a concert tour of North America under the aegis of his friend Rachmaninov. He eventually settled in London where devoted his time to composing and teaching.
Medtner wrote in what might be called a late Romantic and post romantic style. Unlike Rachmaninov, he did not try to write exclusively Russian-sounding music but sought to write in a supra national or international style as had Taneyev and Tchaikovsky. But like them, his music does have its moments where it is very Russian.
He wrote three violin sonatas, all on a large scale. His First Sonata dates from 1910. In three movements, the first, Canterellando (singing or humming), is subtitled Canzone. It begins softly with a lovely lyrical melody that also has a bit of a lilt. Gentle and amiable, the music slowly unfolds in a leisurely fashion. The second movement, Allegro scherzando, is subtitled Danza. It begins in much the same fashion as the opening movement. Not particularly fast, it is graceful and elegant. However, the second section is much faster and has exhibits a wild streak. The finale is entitled Ditirambo, festivamente. A ditirambo was ancient Greek hymn and the music does have a hymn-like quality, albeit a festive one, as the composer suggests it should.
This an important post romantic Russian violin sonata that definitely deserves the attention of both amateurs and professionals.