Russian composer. His music is almost wholly confined to piano works (including three concertos and 12 sonatas) and to songs, but he also wrote three sonatas and three Nocturnes for violin and piano, and at the end of his life he produced a Quintet for strings and piano. Characteristic titles are Improvisations, Dithyrambs, Fairy Tales, and Novels.
Medtner was born in Moscow. He studied piano under Vassily Safonov at the Moscow Conservatory, won the Rubinstein Prize there, and toured Europe as a pianist 1901–02, becoming professor at the Conservatory for a year on his return. He then retired to devote himself to composition. After the Revolution he taught at a school in Moscow and in 1921 went on another tour in the West, but found himself unable to return. He settled in Paris for a time and later in London, where he died.
As a keyboard composer he is as important, and in his way as characteristic, as Chopin or Schumann. His numerous songs are deeply felt and tasteful, with piano parts as important as those for the voice. For their words he relied largely upon Russian and German poets, including Pushkin, Tyutchev, Goethe, and Heine. Sponsored by the Maharajah of Mysore, he made gramophone recordings of many of his own works, including all three concertos.
WorksPiano three piano concertos (1914–43); piano quintet; three sonatas and three nocturnes for violin and piano; 12 piano sonatas and a great number of pieces for piano including Fairy Tales Op. 8, 9, 14, 20, 26, 34, 35, 42, 48, 51, Forgotten Melodies Op. 38–40, Dithyrambs, Novels, Lyric Fragments, Improvisations, Hymns in Praise of Toil, and others; Russian Dance and Knight-Errant for two pianos; sonata-vocalise for voice and piano.
Vocal 17 Op. nos. of songs to words by Pushkin, Tiutchev, Goethe, Heine, Nietzsche, and others.