Russian soprano Sofia Fomina sings the songs of Nikolai Medtner

Like several of his contemporaries, Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) enjoyed a good career in Tsarist Russia, first as a pianist of note and more and more as a composer, all prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. And just like several of his contemporaries, Medtner left his birth-country to avoid persecution after 1917. He went into exile, first in Germany, then to France, and finally to England in 1935, where he lived out the rest of his life.

Listening to the diversity of songs by this gifted composer in the Chandos CD Medtner Songs, as superbly sung by Russian soprano Sofia Fomina, one is baffled by the neglect of this intriguing music. Other than Ms. Fomina one is hard put to think of any singer adept in both the Russian and German languages who has recorded at length this composer’s oeuvre. So it is cause for celebration to have an album where both Medtner’ settings of Russian poetry, especially his exquisite Pushkin songs, and his German language settings of Goethe and Eichendorf more than qualify him to stand side by side with some of the post-Romantics of his time, notably Hugo Wolf and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

The Russian soprano’s lovely voice soars above the staff with ease – no wonder as she is a busy operatic coloratura soprano. But unlike many an opera singer, she is perfectly at home in the intimate world of art song, where her attention to the nuances of expressing the text are greatly in evidence. She is just as comfortable in the lyrical songs in 6 Stikhotvoreniy A. Pushkina (6 Poems by A. Pushkin), Op. 36 as in the rapturously dramatic Arion and in the intensity of Telega zhizni (The Wagon of Life.)

Sofia Fomina is perfectly partnered by the protean pianist Alexander Karpeyev, a Medtner specialist who  would be the ideal artist to create an album of piano music by the prolific Medtner.

Rafael de Acha      ALL ABOUT THE ARTS