New light on Nikolay Medtner as pianist and teacher

Karpeyev, Alexander (2014). New light on Nikolay Medtner as pianist and teacher. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City University London)

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Abstract

This dissertation introduces the ‘Edna Iles’s Medtner Collection’ (EIMC), held by the British Library in London, and provides a detailed analysis of her ‘Notes on the Interpretation of Medtner’s Works’. Nikolay Medtner (1880–1951) was one of Russia’s leading, early-20th-century composers, who spent the latter part of his life in the UK. He wrote mainly for the piano, composing 14 piano sonatas, three piano concertos, 108 songs, three violin sonatas, a piano quintet and more than 90 pieces for solo piano. Although he performed and recorded, and was considered a prominent composer while he was resident in the UK, his wider renown in the West was limited.

Edna Iles (1905–2003) was an English pianist and Medtner’s last pupil. She took numerous notes during and immediately following her lessons and, in 1997, donated all of her Medtner-related materials to the British Library. I am the fourth person to consult it. The scope of the EIMC is impressive: Medtner manuscripts, newspaper cuttings, photographs and letters, all of which she carefully organized before donating. Importantly, her ‘Notes on the Interpretation of Medtner’s Works’ contain unique information about how he taught and thought his music should be interpreted. She was, in fact, the only Medtner student to leave systematic written evidence of his pedagogy; the recordings she made of his music further demonstrate her mastery of his principles. She became, in effect, his disciple. This dissertation assesses the new light her ‘Notes’ shed on our knowledge of his methods and pianism.

The Introduction provides details of Medtner reception history and introduces all available sources on Medtner performance practice. Chapter 1 summarizes the lives of Medtner and Iles, and elucidates the nature of their relationship. Chapters 2 through to 4 discuss the disciplines of Medtner’s approach to playing – basic piano technique, articulation, practicing, pedaling and memorization – corroborated elsewhere. Chapters 5 and 6 unravel the more intellectual concepts of fil rouge, tempo, phrasing, voicing and his distinction between energetic and rounded music that form the core of Iles’s ‘Notes’ and represent the EIMC’s most original contribution to Medtner performance practice. Chapter 7 provides the opportunity to observe and apply Medtner’s interpretive philosophy to a single work (Sonate-Idylle, Op. 56) by blending the advice conveyed in his printed scores with the methodology and insights he communicated to Iles. The Conclusions affirm the importance of the EIMC as a uniquely detailed primary source on Medtnerian performance practice.

An inventory of the Edna Iles Medtner Collection and transcript of her ‘Notes on Interpretation of Medtner’s Works’ can be found in Appendices One and Two. Appendix Three offers a facsimile of exercises Medtner gave to Iles, preserved in her own handwriting. Appendices Four and Five provide a discography of Medtner piano works and pertinent contextual photographic evidence.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music
Divisions: School of Arts > Department of Creative Practice & Enterprise - Centre for Music Studies
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/13011

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