Medtner: Sleeplessness, Complete Songs, Vol.2

Medtner: Sleeplessness, Complete Songs, Vol.2
Composer Nikolai Medtner
Artist Ekaterina Levental mezzo-soprano
Frank Peters piano
Format 1 CD
Cat. number 96061
EAN code 5028421960616
Release February 2021

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About this release

The first volume in this project, undertaken with missionary zeal by both singer and pianist, to rescue Medtner’s song output from obscurity, was met with enthusiasm in the Dutch press. ‘The melancholy, autumnal atmosphere evokes Tsarist Russia, of which the once Uzbek but long Dutch-resident Ekaterina Levental has perfectly captured the spirit. Her smooth singing is a joy to listen to.’ (Opus Klassiek)
Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) was a Russian (with German roots) who lived outside the Soviet Union from 1921 and lived in London from 1936 until his death. He was a good friend of Rachmaninov and composed in a related style, with a hint of Scriabin here and there. His work dates from ‘the long 19th century’, ignoring the current of contemporary modernism; he continued to compose in a late romantic, tonal style until his last breath. Yet his music sings with its own voice. Medtner, a considerable virtuoso, wrote sonatas and concertos that place great demands on the pianist, at first glance rhapsodic in form but hiding considerable formal sophistication.
Seventy years and more after his death, Medtner no longer seems behind the times; his music may be enjoyed on its own terms, and a renaissance in his appreciation began around 30 years ago, but it was focused on the big sonatas and concertos. The pronounced narrative character of his music is perhaps best appreciated in the shorter piano pieces such as the Skazki ('fairy tales'). It is these pieces to which Medtner’s songs are most related.
Volume 2 continues to highlight Medtner’s deep affection for the poetry of Pushkin. The first song of Op.45 is like a love-letter to the figure who embodies the world of Russian Romantic literature, in a setting that mirrors the complex sentiments of the text. The composer returns time and again to the archetypally Romantic image of the lost and wandering soul, in moods of sleepless melancholy such as the opening song of Op.37. The Russian culture’s fascination with the sunny but temperamental south is addressed in the ‘Spanish Romance’ of Op.32, and its world-weary resignation to the circle of life is vividly dramatised in Op.45 No.2, ‘The Wagon of Life’.
‘Levental's singing is firm and secure; so too the phenomenal pianism of Peters. Both musicians demonstrate a wholehearted love for Russian music; sometimes with glowing passion, sometimes with silent desire. Volume 1 whets the appetite for a sequel. Medtner’s songs have been ignored for too long; they deserve better.’ (Gelderlander)

- The second instalment of an exciting new series: the recording of the complete songs by Medtner!
- Nikolai Medtner was born in Moscow in 1880. After piano lessons with his mother he entered the Moscow Conservatory where he had lessons from Pavel Pabst and Sergey Taneyev. He won the prestigious Anton Rubinstein Prize at age 20. A younger contemporary of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff he was destined for a brilliant pianistic career but he chose to concentrate on composition. In 1936 he settled in London where he spent the rest of his life teaching and composing till 1951.
- Medtner’s style is rooted in the 19th century, full-blooded romantic, with a highly personal harmonic and melodic language, often complex and dense, but hauntingly beautiful.
- This second volume includes the Poems Op. 32, 36, 37 and 45.
- Medtner’s style is rooted in the 19th century, full-blooded romantic, with a highly personal harmonic and melodic language, often complex and dense, but hauntingly beautiful.
- Ekaterina Levental was born in Uzbekistan. She settled in The Netherlands where she studied at the Conservatory of The Hague. She embarked on a successful career as singer, dramatist and theatre producer. Pianist Frank Peters is a highly respected Dutch pianist, both as soloist and chamber music partner. He is an indefatigable champion of the piano works of Medtner.
“Levental’s soft high notes are truly exquisite, and she can do things with the voice that most modern singers cannot, such as to drain the voice of vibrato for expressive effect. All things considered, she is a virtuoso vocalist of the old school, and such artists are extremely rare nowadays… We are very lucky to have a pianist like Peters, who fully understands this dichotomy, as the pianist on this album.” (Artmusiclounge.com).

Track list

Disk 1

  1. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems, Op. 32: I. The Echo
  2. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems, Op. 32: II. Retrospect
  3. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems, Op. 32: III. Message
  4. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems, Op. 32: IV. I Loved You Well
  5. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems, Op. 32: V. Waltz
  6. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems, Op. 32: VI. To a Dreamer
  7. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems after Pushkin, Op. 36: I. The Angel
  8. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems after Pushkin, Op. 36: II. The Faded Flower
  9. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems after Pushkin, Op. 36: III. When Roses Fade
  10. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems after Pushkin, Op. 36: IV. Spanish Romance
  11. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems after Pushkin, Op. 36: V. Night
  12. Nikolai Medtner: 6 Poems after Pushkin, Op. 36: VI. Arion
  13. Nikolai Medtner: 5 Poems, Op. 37: I. Sleepless
  14. Nikolai Medtner: 5 Poems, Op. 37: II. Tears
  15. Nikolai Medtner: 5 Poems, Op. 37: III. Impromptu
  16. Nikolai Medtner: 5 Poems, Op. 37: IV. Waltz
  17. Nikolai Medtner: 5 Poems, Op. 37: V. Night Winds
  18. Nikolai Medtner: 4 Poems, Op. 45: I. Elegy
  19. Nikolai Medtner: 4 Poems, Op. 45: II. The Coach of Life
  20. Nikolai Medtner: 4 Poems, Op. 45: III. Song of Night
  21. Nikolai Medtner: 4 Poems, Op. 45: IV. Our Time