Foreword to the Fairy Tales
The generic title skazka, which Medtner adopted early in his career, seems to indicate nothing more specific than a certain narrative element that is shared by Chopin's Ballades or Dvorák's Legends. Their emotional sweep and expressive range is broad and their eternal motivation, where the composer discloses it, comes from such diverse sources as Pushkin, Shakespeare, or nature, as well as from Russian folklore. Although Medtner reserved the title for his shorter pieces, these are no miniatures. There is more incident, more concentrated thought and feeling and sheer stature here than can be found in many a sonata or symphony. There is not one Tale that is without merit, and several that can rightfully claim consideration as masterpieces.

"No one tells such tales as Kolya!" exclaimed the delighted Rachmaninoff after Medtner had played his op.51 set to a private gathering. How magnificently King Lear rages at the storm in op.35 no.4, and how poignant is Ophelia's Song, op.14 no.1, its bleak simplicity shorn of all sentimentality.

Austere and noble sentiments (Pushkin's poor knight, op.34 no.4, or Russian Folktale, op.42 no.1)' whimsical caprice (op.35 no.2); violence and chaos (op.8 no.2); idyllic rapture (op.9 no.3 and op.26 no.1), and uninhibited exuberance (op.48 no.1 and op.51 no.6) are just some of the emotions it is possible to pin down - but this is only half the story. What of the enigmatic questions asked by op.31 no.3, and what provokes the desperate anxiety of op.9 no.1?

Here is not just captivating storytelling but great music that explains itself to the receptive ear, dreams clothed in reality for us all to share. How absurd that some contemporary critics were so hypnotized by Medtner's fastidious craftsmanship and contrapuntal wizardry that they labeled him "academic"!

When I survey the wealth of emotion, wit, wisdom, and philosophical integrity in this music, I have the feeling that it will prove to have great durability and continue to delight performers and audiences for many generations to come.

Hamish Milne