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TitleNEW LIGHT ON NIKOLAY MEDTNER AS PIANIST AND TEACHER The Edna Iles Medtner Collection
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NEW LIGHT ON NIKOLAY MEDTNER

AS PIANIST AND TEACHER

The Edna Iles Medtner Collection (EIMC) at the British Library





Alexander Karpeyev













Dissertation prepared in partial fulfilment of the Degree of

DOCTOR OF MUSICAL ARTS











CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON

2014

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TABLE OF CONTENTS


ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................iii

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS................................................................................................iv

ABBREVIATIONS...........................................................................................................v

INDEXED LIST OF MUSIC CITED…………………………………….............….....vi

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.........................................................................................xiv

INTRODUCTION…………………………………………….........…………………....1

CHAPTER 1 Medtner, Iles and the Edna Iles Medtner Collection.………………......16

CHAPTER 2 Fundamentals of Medtnerian Piano Technique.................……………..34

Position at the piano – Positions of the elbows – Movements of the hands – Free
falling and rising of the hands – Follow-through movement – Accents – Playing
chords – Articolando – Staccato – Rotary and ‘motor’ movements – Use of thumb
– Legato playing and good tone


CHAPTER 3 Pedalling in Medtner.………………………………………………......59

CHAPTER 4 Medtner’s Philosophy of Practising........................................................86

Learning a new work – Dialectic practising – Practising runs – Practising
different touches – Blind practising – Memorisation – The importance of
technical exercises


CHAPTER 5 Medtner’s Approach to Tempo...............................................................98

The fil rouge – Phrasing – Al rigore di tempo – Flessibile – Further tempo
modifications


CHAPTER 6 Interpreting Medtner.........................................................….…….…...117
Energetic and rounded music – Voicing – Execution of grace notes, trills and
arpeggios – Melodic phrasing – Passages of ‘harmony’ – Playing similar
passages differently


CHAPTER 7 Case study: Medtner’s Sonate-Idylle, Op. 56…………………………151

CONCLUSIONS……………………………………………………………………...167

BIBLIOGRAPHY……………………………………………………….…………....174


APPENDICES ON CD

1 Contents of the ‘Edna Iles Medtner Collection’
2 Transcription of Iles’s ‘Notes on the Interpretation of Medtner’s Works’
3 Facsimile of the ‘Exercises given by Medtner’ to Iles, dated June 1934 and
April 1943 (EIMC: Box 2)
4 Discography of Medtner Piano Music
5 Photographs

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CHAPTER 4

Medtner’s Philosophy of Practising



Iles recorded only a few, if essential, suggestions on how to practise. They are found

both in her ‘Notes’ and the manuscript exercises that she compiled.1



Learning a new work

When learning a new work, Medtner encouraged Iles to ‘go through the whole [piece]

and get general idea of it, then take half a page at a time and memorise and practise

from memory’. He believed that, ‘if one tries to play a whole work with the music

before memorising any of it, one wastes a lot of time, as one cannot read music and

watch hands at the same time’.2 Iles uncharacteristically disagreed, later remarking in

the introduction to the ‘Notes’ (1976) that,

I found this to be memorising by drudgery. It is best to learn a work with the
music until the complete sound and details are clearly in one[’]s mind. Memory
is then beginning to come naturally and one must then analyse and analyse and
analyse away from keyboard and at keyboard to reinforce memory and make it
as safe as possible. Edna Iles. September 15th 1976.3


Medtner’s student Yelena Karnitskaya claimed that ‘every new piece had to be played

from memory from the very first lesson. ‘We were never allowed to play from music in

Medtner’s class’, she claimed.4 When Medtner left Russia he decided to focus on

performing his own music, and abandoned learning any further large-scale works by

other composers, so his views on memorisation refer specifically to his music rather

than to piano music in general. It should be noted, however, that he used the music of


1 For a facsimile copy of Iles’s compilation of exercises see Appendix 3.
2 EIMC, 6.1.1.2.
3 Introduction to the Early Book.
4 Elena Karnitska, ‘I was a Pupil of Nicolas Medtner’, in Richard Holt ed. Nicolas Medtner,

London: Dobson, 1955, p. 100.

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his Third Concerto in an early private performance with Myra Hess (playing the

orchestral reduction on a second piano) at her home.5

In the Daily Work, Medtner spoke of the need to determine the ‘character of

motion’ early on when learning a new work.6 Later on he advised Iles to think of the

theme, not the accompaniment, when deciding on the tempo.7 Iles tells us that Medtner

had a vision for every work: ‘… he analyses it and practises it, and finally tries to return

to reproduce vision without thinking of technique or physical means.’8 This ‘vision’

relates closely to his overarching concept of fil rouge, discussed in Chapter 5.



Dialectic practising

The advice on practising dialectically contained in the ‘Notes’ generally accords with

that found in the Daily Work. The requirement to ‘practise everything which should be

staccato, legato; and everything which should be legato, staccato’9 is stated in both

sources and parallels his instruction to Iles to play piano everything that should be forte,

and vice versa.10 The Daily Work also mentions the need for practising ‘gradual

disappearances’.11 This recommendation was made in reference to the ending of Tale,

Op. 14 No. 2 (‘Ritterzug’); later, he called for a ‘gradual disappearance’ at the end of

the Sonate-Idylle.12

One finds still further, related directives in the Daily Work and reminiscences

of Vasil’yev: ‘[everything] slow must be able to become quick, forte-piano; piano


5 ‘Mining the Archive’, Iles’s interview with Geoffrey Norris, 1991.
6 Nikolay Medtner, Povsednevnaya rabota pianista i kompozitora [The Daily Work of the

Pianist and Composer] (Moscow: State Music Publishers), p.25.
Medtner’s categories of tempo are discussed in Chapter 5.
7 EIMC, 6.1.3.2.
8 EIMC, 6.1.4.25.
9 EIMC, 6.1.1.2.
10 Ibid.
11 The Daily Work, p.38.
12 ‘Gradual disappearance’ is also required at the end of the first movement of Second Violin

Sonata.

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SAFONOV, Vasily. New Formula for the Piano Teacher and Piano Student. London:
Chester, 1916.


SAMSON, Jim. Music in Transition. London: Dent, 1977.

SÁNDOR, György. On Piano Playing. London: Schirmer Books, 1981.

SHNEYERSON, G. ‘Novoye o Metnere’ (New about Medtner). Sovetskaya muzïka, 7

(1956), pp.139-43.

SHTROM, A. ‘Dve “Muzï” ($ romansakh N. Metnera, Op. 29 No. 1 i S.

Rakhmaninova, Op. 34 No. 1 n% stikhotvoreniye &.S. Pushkina "Muza")’ [Two
‘Muses’ (About Medtner’s and Rachmaninov’s settings on Pushkin’s ‘Muse’].
Muzïkal′naya akademiya, 4 (2004), pp.127-31.


SLONIMSKY, Nicholas, ed. Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 5th ed.

New York: G. Schirmer, 1958.

SORABJI, Kaikhosru. Around Music. London: The Unicorn Press, 1932.

STAPLES, James Gwynn. Six Lesser-Known Piano Quintets of the Twentieth Century.

Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester DMA, 1972.

SVETLANOV, Evgeny. ‘Proizvedeniya Rakhmaninova, Metnera i Shostakovicha’

[Works by Rachmaninov, Medtner and Shostakovich]. Sovetskaya muzïka, 4
(1956), pp.168-9.


SWAN, Alfred J. ‘Medtner’. Musical Times, xliii (Sep. 1922) 616-19.

____________. ‘Medtner and the Music of our Time’. Music & Letters, 8/1 (January

1927), 46-54.

____________. ‘The Present State of Russian Music’. The Musical Quarterly, 13/1

(January 1927), pp.29-38.

____________. ‘Nicolas Medtner’. The Chesterian, 10/75 (December 1928), pp.77-81.

SWAN, Alfred J. and Katherine Swan. ‘Rachmaninoff Personal Reminiscences – Part

I’. The Musical Quarterly, 30/1 (January 1944), pp.1-19.

____________________________. ‘Rachmaninoff Personal Reminiscences – Part II’.

The Musical Quarterly, 30/2 (April 1944), pp.174-191.

TARUSKIN, Richard. Stravinsky and the Russian Traditions. Oxford: OUP: 1996.

TAUSCHECK, Jonathan Paul. A performance guide to two fairy tales of Nickolai

Medtner. University of Iowa DMA, 2012.

TAUSIG, Carl. Tägliche Studien. Leipzig: Edition Steingräber, n.d.

Page 200

186

TIMBRELL, Charles. French pianism: a historical perspective. 2nd ed. Portland, OR:
Amadeus Press, 1999.


TRUSCOTT, H. ‘Nicolas Medtner’. The Chesterian 31/187 (Summer 1956), pp.1–9.

_____________. ‘Medtner’s Sonata in G Minor, Op. 22’. Music Review, xxii (1961),
pp.112–123.


TYULIN Yuriy, ed. Teoreticheskiye problemï muzïki XX veka [Theoretical Problems of

Twentieth Century Music], vol. 1. Moscow: Muzïka, 1967.

VASIL’YEV, Panteleymon. Fortepiannïye sonatï Metnera (Medtner’s Piano Sonatas).

Moscow: State Music Publishers: 1962.

Voprosï fortepiannogo ispolnitel’stva [Issues of Piano Performance]. Moscow: Muzïka,

1965. Vol. I.

YAKOVLEV, Vasily. Nikolay Karlovich Metner. Moscow: Muzïkal'nïy sektor, 1927.

ZETEL’, Isaak. N.K. Metner – pianist. Tvorchestvo. Ispolnitel’stvo. Pedagogika (N.K.

Medtner – A Pianist. His Compositions, his Art of Interpretation and his
Teaching). Moscow: Muzïka, 1981.

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