The Four Pieces Op 4 were published in 1904, although the first one had been more or less completed when Medtner was just seventeen years old as Étude rythmique
. The swaying 5/8 rhythm of the Caprice (No 2) lends an easy-going grace and charm. Moment musical (No 3, subtitled The Gnome’s Lament) is extraordinarily eventful despite its brevity, and would surely have been called a Skazka had Medtner hit upon this nomenclature a couple of years earlier. The heroic Prélude (No 4) is of particular interest for proclaiming the composer’s German antecedents so blatantly. Medtner hated to be described as anything but Russian through and through, since the family had been in the country for at least three generations but, from time to time and especially in his settings of German poets, his genes shine through. Its language is close to early Richard Strauss (whom Medtner did not admire) but its complete mastery of the keyboard was something which Strauss could never achieve. As the music approaches its climax the performer must project three distinct melodic lines (all in octaves), at the same time sustaining the constant flow of triplets in the accompaniment. Josef Hofmann was particularly taken with this piece and asked Medtner to play it five times consecutively at a private gathering.
from notes by Hamish Milne © 2012