Violin Sonata No.2 in G Major, Op.44
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 Second Sonata dates from 1922 and was dedicated to the Russian composer Alexander Goedicke. It is in three movements. The gigantic first movement, by itself as long a many a full-length sonata, begins with a lengthy Maestoso introduction which has a baroque quality to it. The main section, Allegro non troppo, ma appassionato, is is almost impossible to describe, by turns lyrical, passionate, dramatic, reflective and highly original. The second movement is marked Tema con variazione. The theme is slow, sad and ruminative. The following three variations are very close to the theme in tempo and mood. Only in the fourth variation, an Allegro, does the cloud lift and the tempo quicken. (Our soundbite presents the theme, fourth and fifth variations.) The finale, Rondo, allegro risoluto, begins like a rustic dance, full of forward motion and high spirits. It is followed by a darker and more lyrical interlude.
Like his other two violin sonatas, this sonata must be considered an important post romantic Russian violin sonata that definitely deserves the attention of both amateurs and professionals.