Introduction to the Fairy Tales
Medtner's creativity and craftsmanship are as much in evidence in his skazki as they are in the large forms of the fourteen piano sonatas that carry his indelible and individualistic stamp. While the sonatas demand the closest attention over repeated hearings to yield their musical rewards, the Tales offer a concentration of musical ideas over a shorter time span, resulting in a more immediately vivid musical experience. Here, Medtner's imaginative powers are in full evidence, exploring a wide variety of moods - from the tender loveliness of op.26 no.1 to the grotesquely frightening of op.34 no.3 … from the gossamer texture of op.51 no.5 to the awesome monumentality of op.20 no.2.

A source of pure delight for the performer, this wealth of music is an opportunity to discover the unbelievably pianistic nature of Medtner's writing; by comparison, even Chopin's piano music seems technically uncomfortable! (Let the skeptics among us find this out for themselves.) In choosing the two Tales from op.8 to add to his concert repertoire, Prokofiev recognized that this demanding music was nevertheless "right there under your fingers." Very often in Medtner, the musical idea and its instrumental realization are so intricately joined that it becomes impossible to determine exactly which came first - if indeed they did not occur to the compose at the very same time.

The short list below contains music that has been particularly appealing to me - an excellent introduction to Medtner's world, given the abundance of material in this generous volume:

op 14 no. 2 (which Rachmaninoff called 'a miracle')
op.20 no.1 (perhaps the most famous among the Tales)
op.26 nos.1 and 3
op.34 no.2
op.51 no.3 (an utterly charming piece that is the only Medtner work that Horowitz recorded)

Pianists, rejoice! - for this essential addition to any serious musician's library is a true treasure.

Marc-André Hamelin