A young contemporary of Rachmaninov, Nikolai Medtner’s music was until recently overlooked, not seeming ‘modern’ enough for late 20th century musicologists. However, back in 1900 at the age of twenty, he graduated from the Moscow Conservatory, taking with him one of the highest accolades of the institute – the Anton Rubinstein Award.
Just ten years later he finished this work – at one point his most popular – his fifth piano sonata, a deeply emotional work that many have compared with Beethoven’s later string quartets. Unlike Beethoven’s piano sonatas, however, Medtner wrote in one continuous movement, opening with a noble, tenebroso (dark) slow introduction. Staying reasonably true to the traditional sonata form, two new subjects follow, before in place of a development section, a rich Interludium section links the recap.