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Bortkiewicz: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 2 Import

4.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Symphony No. 1 in D major, ('From my Homeland'), Op. 52: Un poco sostenuto - Allegro
  2. Symphony No. 1 in D major, ('From my Homeland'), Op. 52: Scherzo: Vivace
  3. Symphony No. 1 in D major, ('From my Homeland'), Op. 52: Adagio
  4. Symphony No. 1 in D major, ('From my Homeland'), Op. 52: Allegro vivace
  5. Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 55: Allegro ma non troppo
  6. Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 55: Vivace
  7. Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 55: Andante sostenuto
  8. Symphony No. 2 in E flat major, Op. 55: Vivace (alla breve)


Product Details

  • Orchestra: BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
  • Conductor: Martyn Brabbins
  • Composer: Sergei Bortkiewicz
  • Audio CD (October 1, 2002)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Import
  • Label: Hyperion
  • ASIN: B00006GO65
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #20,195 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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By V. N. Dvornychenko on April 13, 2005
Format: Audio CD
The Ukrainian-Russian composer Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) was a solid member of the Russian Nationalist School, despite having spent most of his life as an émigré. (Bortkiewicz should not be confused with Bortniansky, an earlier composer of liturgical music.) He has unfortunately not received the recognition he deserves, but there are signs this is changing.

This CD provides a sampling of the composer's finest and most significant works, his two symphonies. These amply demonstrate his considerable compositional skills, as well as his Russian Nationalist tendencies. The symphonies are also a testament to the intense nostalgia and homesickness resulting from his self-imposed exile.

To best understand Bortkiewicz one should look to the Russian Nationalist group. The group was founded by Balakirev, and included Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Tchaikovsky. (Mussorgsky and Cui were also members of this group, but wrote little symphonic music.) The ideals of the group were carried forward in the next generation by Lyapunov, Kalinnikov, Rachmaninov and Bortkiewicz. The Finish composer Sibelius also belongs to this group - at least as far as his early compositions, and before he developed his own Finish nationalistic style. A primary objective of this group was to develop a uniquely Russian (or at least non-German) style of symphonic music.
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Format: Audio CD
Sergey Eduardovich Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) is enjoying something of a discovery (and in a sense a rediscovery) of his music for over several years. The obscurity had much to do with the circumstances he was under, not really on the quality of his music, which is generally highly inventive and with a strong melodic profile & fervor. The two World Wars and the Russian Revolution effectively destroyed his chances of real success as a composer and as a musician. After studying music at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with Karl van Arek then with Lyadov (he also studied law which he later abandoned), he decided to continue his musical studies in Germany, and enrolled at the Leipzig Conservatory under the tutelage of Jadassohn & Reisenauer (of composition and piano respectively). His love for Berlin was never in doubt & lived there happily with his wife. But the German officials looked at him with suspicion for he was "Russian" and consequently placed him and his wife under house arrest before deporting them back to Russia.

But even back home he was treated with disdain in Russia because he was looked upon as a wealthy bourgeois (he came from a wealthy family). And when he returned to his estate in Kharkiv (or Kharkov) in the Ukraine after the First World War, his hopes for a better life vanished: the Soviets destroyed his family estate & the composer and his wife settled in Constantinople (Turkey). But he missed the cultures of Europe & decided to move with his wife to Vienna. After living in Paris for six months, they settled in Berlin for close to five years. The Nazi forces, however, continued to show disdain for anything and anyone Russian & expelled them from Germany.
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Format: Audio CD
Like the composers listed above, Bortkeiwicz was content to write the music he wanted to write. These symphonies were written around 1937, but they sound like they were written many years earlier. Symphony 1 is subtitled "From My Homeland" but could be called "Tribute to Tchaikovsky". The scherzo cribs from the pizzicato section of the Tchaikovsky 4th. He also quotes a Russian melody made famous in another of Tchaikovsky's works in the finale. The slow movement is nice, but not as gorgeous as one reviewer notes it on Hyperion's website. The Second Symphony reminds one of Borodin and Mussorgsky in places, notably the Scherzo. This symphony seems to be more original-there are darker shadows haunting this work and one gets a slightly different experience. Although the key is E-Flat major, there are many references to minor keys in the work. For someone investigating late-romantic 20th century symphonies, this CD came as a pleasant surpise, but the earth hasn't moved for me yet on this one. I have always liked his Piano Concerto No.1, however, the language is about the same. Great orchestration, wonderful notes about the composer's heritage (he suffered much in the hands of the Nazis) and he was still able to write cheery music. Great playing by the BBC Scottish and stylish conducting by Brabbins. For those who like this (and I do, although not as much as some, perhaps) this is well worth the investment.
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Format: Audio CD
The other reviewers here go into great detail about this composer and his music--a tale worth telling. Bortkiewicz was hardly alone as a creative and intelligent man nearly ruined by the horrors of the last century. I don't think even today we have the full measure of the damage that was done to our culture by all that barbarity and violence.

If you're the sort of listener who loves to wallow in Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninov (and who doesn't?) then you'll probably enjoy this disc. Bortkiewicz is an unjustifiably obscure composer and his music (on this disc especially) is extremely well-written and engaging with suitable blendings of old style Russian pathos, grandeur, and excitement. At times it may sound like Tchaikovsky but one gets the impression, after a listen or two, that those moments are conscious allusions and not due to lack of originality. There's much to enjoy--the finale of No. 1 is a hoot.

The comment has been made, perhaps too often, that he composed as if forty or so years of music never happened. To be fair, he wasn't really that much of a dinosaur and his music often fits in well with that of other traditionalists of his time like Kurt Atterberg and Randall Thompson. There are even almost jazzy elements here and there. I think we tend to oversimplify the trends of that century; a lot went on simultaneously at varying speeds.
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