Welcome to Day 4 of our Virtual Artistic Residence! Today Elena Toponogova talks about her favourite composer.

I became interested in Nikolai Medtner after I had heard a recording of his Sonata Reminiscenza played by Emil Gilels. Somehow the piece sounded familiar to me though I’d never heard it before. I then discovered Medtner’s well known Fairytales for piano solo and fell in love with his Nocturnes for violin and piano.

Now when I introduce Nikolai Medtner’s music to an audience, I often use a quote by Russian philosopher Ivan Ilyn:

“Medtner’s music astonishes and delights…you may fancy that you have heard the melody before…But where, when, from whom, in childhood, in a dream, in delirium? You will scratch your head and strain your memory in vain: you have not heard it anywhere: in human ears it sounds for the first time…And yet it is as though you had long been waiting for it – waiting because you ‘knew’ it, not in sound, but in spirit”. 

For me his music is a “place” where I would like to go and stay a while and hope audience will join me.

Nikolai Medtner, 1943

 “When one considers the life of Nikolai Karlovich Medtner it is impossible not to be amazed by his strange, tragic and yet marvellous destiny. He was recognized in Russia at the beginning of the twentieth century as one of the most important composers and was, with Scriabin and Rachmaninov, an extremely influential, almost ‘cult’ figure for a whole generation of the Russian intellectual élite. He was also a great pianist and an outstanding musical thinker. His personality was completely divorced from everyday life, but the depth and power of his intellect, entirely absorbed in music, philosophy and the history of culture, were deeply respected by such contemporaries as Nikisch, Rachmaninov, Furtwängler, Koussevitsky, Glazunov and Prokofiev. There is thus something of a paradox in the fact that for the last thirty years of his life, when he lived in the West, he remained practically unknown to the general public and spent most of his life in abject poverty” Dmitri Alexeev