Monday, December 27, 2010

Sergei Bortkiewicz

Sergei Bortkiewicz (Russian: Серге́й Эдуа́рдович Бортке́вич,Sergéj Eduárdovič Bortkévič; Ukrainian: Сергі́й Едуа́рдович Бортке́вич, Serhíj Eduárdovyč Bortkévyč; 28 February 1877 [O.S. 16 February] – 25 October 1952) was a Ukrainian-born Russian Romantic composer and pianist.
Bortkiewicz's piano style was very much based on Liszt and Chopin, nurtured by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, early Scriabin, Wagner and Russian folklore. He was unaffected by the music trends of the 20th century – the composer never saw himself as a "modernist" as can be seen from his Künstlerisches Glaubensbekenntnis, written in 1923. His workmanship is meticulous, his imagination colourful and sensitive, his piano writing idiomatic; a lush instrumentation underlines the essential sentimentality of the melodic invention. But Bortkiewicz was not merely an imitator– he very much had his own style that drew upon all the influences of his life and that can be immediately recognised as a typically Bortkiewicz tone: lyrical and nostalgic.
With much thanks to Hugo van Dalen, his close friend, we can still enjoy Bortkiewicz's music and learn much about his life from the many letters he sent to the Dutch pianist. When van Dalen died in 1967 his family bequeathed the manuscripts of several compositions (such as the 12 Etudes, Op. 29, dedicated to van Dalen); a written autobiography Erinnerungen (published in German in Musik des Ostens, 1971 p. 136-169, in Dutch by Hugo van Dalen in July/August 1939 in De Zevende Dag and in English by B. N. Thadani Recollections 2nd edition, Cantext, 2001); plus a number of letters and printed music to the Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, which recently passed it on to the Netherlands Music Institute (NMI). The NMI has the only existing copy of the manuscript of the Piano Sonata No. 2, Op. 60, and of two of the Preludes, Op. 66.

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