In Support of Nikolai Medtner: An Examination of Five of his Art Songs

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Liebeskind, Daniel J
Nikolai Medtner; Art Song; Post-Romantic; Lieder; Goethe; Pushkin
thesis / dissertation description
The music of Nikolai Medtner was neglected during his lifetime and has remained so after his death. While his piano sonatas and fairy tales receive occasional exposure, his 106 art songs are almost never heard. This monograph examines five of the 27 songs that he, himself, recorded. It is hoped that these analyses will convince readers that his most neglected genre is worthy of study and performance. A biography of the composer lays out possible reasons for his neglect, including his principled avoidance of the commercial aspects of the music business, writing in a post-Romantic style during an era that viewed that language as old-fashioned, the social and political upheavals of the first half of the twentieth century, the technical difficulty of his works, and their lack of immediate melodic appeal. The biography is followed by an overview of his musical output and style, which leads to an examination of five of his songs: “Elfenliedchen,” Op. 6, No. 3, “Aus ‘Lila,’” Op. 15, No. 5, “Роза,” Op. 29, No. 6, “Die Quelle,” Op. 46, No. 6, and “Winternacht,” Op. 46, No. 5. Each descriptive analysis pays particular attention to the text-music relationship of the individual songs, and an effort is made to highlight distinctive Medtnerian techniques and characteristics that apply to his broader output.