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 Post subject: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 9:01 pm 
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Born in Kharkov, Ukraine in 1877, Sergei Bortkiewicz studied with Liadov and Arek at the Imperial Conservatory in St. Petersburg and in Leipzig with Reisenauer. He toured Europe as a performing artist and also taught at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin. He gave many master classes and also composed primarily for piano solo as well as composing four piano concertos. Bortkiewicz’s musical style is late romantic with stylistic links to Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky and Wagner.

World War II brought severe hardships to Bortkiewicz and his wife then residing in Vienna. Much of his sheet music was destroyed by the Allied bombings in Germany, thereby cutting off his income. His friend Hugo van Dalen, a Dutch touring artist, helped Bortkiewicz financially, and was an exponent of the composer’s music. Bortkiewicz also taught at the Vienna City Conservatory at that time. After the war Bortkiewicz tried to rebuild his status as a composer and pianist, but after his death in 1952, he and his music were all but forgotten. There is now a renaissance of his music.

Very recently the Yugoslav Suite, Op. 58 composed in 1940--but lost for decades--was discovered in the Rahter publishing archive. From the suite I’ve drawn No. 5, “Nocturne”, and have made the first recording of this “new music”. The piece is largely in E minor, however, the key of the coda becomes E major casting brilliant sunshine replacing an earlier dark mood.

Comments welcome.

Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”) with lid fully open
Recorder: Roland R-44
Mics: Matched pair of Earthworks TC-20 small diaphragm, omni-directional condenser mics in A-B configuration

Bortkiewicz - Yugoslav Suite, Op. 58, No. 5 "Nocturne"

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:48 pm 
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"stylistic links to Chopin"!! :) The influence from the Chopin nocturnes is very apparent. The piece is beautiful, though - it's hard to believe it was written in 1940 in Vienna.
Congratulations on a fine recording, David. Nice addition to the site, too. BTW: I listen through speakers, and the resonance of the piano is terrific on this recording.

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:12 am 
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Hi Stu,

Thanks for your kind words on my playing! It means a lot to me. And I'm so glad you enjoyed hearing this music. Yes, that piece sat in a dark vault for 74 years. But the same week it surfaced, I was apprised and I started work on this nocturne. So no time was wasted! Now that it's posted, I've commenced work on another unknown Bortkiewicz piece.

I envy your listening through the speakers. I disconnected my speakers several years ago. They are in the finished basement, but therein, I had to make room for a copier plus a digital piano (when I can't practice on the Baldwin), so something had to give, and it was the speakers. I'm glad that the Baldwin sounds good on them.

Thanks for listening and commenting.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 2:11 am 
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Hi David,
This sure does sound like Chopin! It starts out exactly like his Nocturne Op. 72, no 1. Oh well, hard not to be influenced by Chopin!!
Anyway, you play it nicely, and I have put it on the site. You made a little error in the title: you named it #1 instead of #5. I fixed that.

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2014 3:36 am 
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Hi Monica,

I'm glad you liked the performance. This is actually a premier recording, so I got to create the first interpretation. Yes, Chopin was definitely an inspiration here for Bortkiewicz.

Thanks for catching and changing that number to 5. I don't know how that got by me. Thanks too for putting it up so quickly.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 3:37 pm 
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Well done as usual. Nothing even remotely Yugoslav about this, it's really Chopin re-hashed 100 years after. A nice piece though not one that would get me hooked on Bortkiewicz.

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Thu Apr 17, 2014 4:26 pm 
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Hi Chris,

Where the Late Romantic period was an extension of the Romantic Age, there's no doubt that Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Brahms and and even Mendelssohn all had their influences in some way or other on the late romantics like Bortkiewicz. The modernists of that era clearly broke ranks and did their own thing with atonalism, tone rows, tall tone clusters, etc. But those who stayed within the camp of Late Romanticsm like Prokofiev (who also had Classical tendencies), or Debussy who's early works were totally late romantic until he decisively moved into Impressiosism, all had their earlier influences. We even hear it in Scriabin's earlier works. It could be that even in his older years, Bortkiewicz couldn't quite get Chopin out of his system. But if one's music will pay homage to a predecessor, then who better than Chopin? So I cannot disagree on the matter of originality to some degree at least.

One thing I noticed in this recording: I think when it comes to the higher treble, the Korg seemed to have offered more clarity than the Roland.

David

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"Interpreting music means exploring the promise of the potential of possibilities." David April


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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Sat Apr 19, 2014 9:07 pm 
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I have been away for some time now, mainly because I am undertaking piano shock therapy. At times it seems to work, at times not, but I have had some interesting insights, which I will share with members when the time is ripe.

I missed your earlier recording of the Dohnanyi, which I found an attractive, well played piece, but I do not seem to be too late to join the fray for the Bortkiewicz.

I realise that in these days we are all Ukrainians, but I believe referring to Bortkiewicz as one is an anachronism. He thought of himself as a Russian, though, when tranliterating his name into Latin chartacters, he pointedly opted for the Polish version, and not the French (Usual at the time, see fort example Rachmaninoff), German (interesting, as he loved all things German - Bortkjewitsch it would have been, or maybe even Bortkewitz) or English.

I am acquainted with the Jugoslav suite, but I know, this a work for orchestra, a version of which I believe is available on YouTube, performed by a Ukrainian orchestra. As far as I am aware, there is no commercial recording of this work.

I find your recording most enjoyable, though I do not have the score. I prided myself until today of having all his piano music, but, like the proud of this world, I have been humbled.

The Nocturne does not remind me at all of Chopin. I can actually hear Bortkiewicz's voice in it. As for any lack of "Yugoslav" character, I would point out that it might be because there was never such a nation (as opposed to country).and music from that region draws on two sources: a more oriental one, to be found in the music of Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kossovo, and a more European one, to be heard in Croatia (and Dalmatia), Slovenia and maybe (I am not sure) in Vojvodina. We tend to associate the Orient with Yugoslavia, in part thanks to the Marche Slave and the Merry Widow. The first number of the suite does indeed draw on the oriental tradition, while this nocturne obviously does not. Maybe Chopin comes to mind because he was, after all, a Pole and the Poles are not all that far away from the Slovenes, for example.

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:44 am 
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Hi Richard,

Welcome back!

I hope you had a chance to listen to both of my Dohnanyi pieces from Winterreigen. I like them both, but if I had to decide between the two it would be the "Postludium".

Bortkiewicz did get his musical training in St. Petersburg in Russia as well as Leipzig, but in later years seemed to be residing in Berlin or Vienna (depending on safety) with a more unconventional stay in Istanbul. While based there, he toured a lot, so visited many countries. He spent only a short time in Sofia and Belgrade waiting for his Austrian visa.

Yes, there is no way you could have had the Yugoslav Suite, as had been locked away in a vault for 74 years. I have another surprise to spring later with the same story behind it. Anyway, I'm happy that you enjoyed hearing my rendition of the "Nocturne". It does start on Chopin's opening to his Nocturne 72/1; however, Bortkiewicz soon goes his own way.

Although I had made many Bortkiewicz recordings, I hadn't played his repertoire lately, as I've been trying to spend time playing other late romantic composers. But when I was offered the opportunity to play from the Yugoslav Suite and make the first recording, I say who could turn that down!?!

I noticed awhile back that you hadn't appeared here lately at Audition Room, but I'm glad to hear that things are going OK for you.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 10:39 am 
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Hello, David,

I usually refrain fgrom commenting on recordings when I have little constructive to say. When I like them, I will even say so, but saying not liking a piece, I will refrain from saying no without offering any alternative is simply not my way, at least in public.

Later on yesterday, I realised that in my small dissertation I omitted Bosnia-Herzegovina and left out the Muslim component, which are, in this case, Slavs who converted to Islam. The term did not at the lime refer to Albanians, who more often than not, were also Muslims.

Have you raided the Rahter deposits and unearthed other treasures? Now you need to go to Honmg Kong and convince the chap who bought the Wittgenstein library to cough up!

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Sun Apr 20, 2014 4:56 pm 
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Hi Richard,

Ah yes, the Rahter archive. I can tell you there was more than one treasure found there, and I believe they looked through everything relative to Bortkiewicz.
Any gaps that still exist probably disappeared in the bombings.

Regarding Wittgenstein, prior to his war injury, he was not considered to be a top touring virtuoso in his day. A good number of composers took on and responded to Wittgenstein's commissions for piano concertos for the left hand alone. Of what he received, there was very little he liked. Thankfully, he didn't reject the Ravel concerto, but he made changes (we might call them emmedations or simplifications) which alienated Ravel. Sometimes Wittgenstein would lock a concerto away or hide it in his library (he was given full rights until his death), so some of those pieces didn't come to light until long after he had died. He was a tragic figure to be sure.

David

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 1:24 pm 
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I listened to this a full week ago, and not yet found time to comment! So I really need to say how much I enjoyed this. If this had been posted here, uncredited, I would still have known who was playing! It has all the hallmarks of your style and the influences of the grand pianistic tradition of the past. A slight piece perhaps, but you make a lot from it. It's a pleasure to hear someone play in a style which I hear disappointing little of from the famous pianists of today. The sound quality is good, too.


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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 2:08 pm 
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Hi David,

I had a full listen of your recording here, I really enjoyed this, and like many others can appreciate the similarity to Chopin and his example-of-the-form Nocturnes. This is interesting history, the story of Bortkiewicz and how his life was turned upside down by the war, like many others of that time. Look forward to the next yet-unknown piece you are learning by this little-known but good composer!

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 4:41 pm 
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Hi Andrew,

Thanks for listening and for those compliments on my playing too. I always do my best to play "in the grand manner", which I also detect in your own playing too. Artists like Rubinstein, Arrau and others now gone were masters at that. For my part, I try to elevate even a trifle of a piece to a higher plane. I fervently believe that if the new crop of pianists could put away their urtext editions, they'd free their own imaginations to soar.

I think the Roland-44 has passed muster; however to my ears, it doesn't quite capture the clarity of the upper treble as well as the Korg MR-1000. But, the options for a tabletop recorder were limited. It seems that outlets have a plethora of hand-held portables and studio rackable equipment. But these days a tabletop recorder has become a rare bird. Seems to come down to a choice between the Roland-44 (formerly Idirol) and Tascam.

Thanks again!

David

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Last edited by Rachfan on Fri May 02, 2014 11:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Bortkiewicz, Nocturne Op. 58, No. 5 from the Yugoslav Suite
PostPosted: Fri May 02, 2014 4:50 pm 
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Hi Riley,

Thanks for listening. Yes, during winter Bortkiewicz and his wife Elisabeth spent the greatest part of their time in the bathroom of their Vienna apartment, as it had a small gas light which provided their only heat. It's hard to imagine. Chopin loomed large in some of Bortkiewicz's compositions, but Chopin also influenced so many other fine composers too. We're fortunate that such a giant of romanticism such as Chopin set out the forms as a legacy for so many to come after him. But overall those wonderful composers also had their own distinctive idioms as well, which is the way it should be.

David

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