Piano works by Sergei Bortkiewicz: What a discovery!

Dear people: this CD is simply magnificent!  Secretly I find myself thinking that it might be one of the most beautiful piano recitals of recent times. Not that Sergei Bortkiewicz is an acknowledged genius, but since when is genius a prerequisite for appreciation and – more importantly – for pure enjoyment?

I knew the composer mainly for his vocal works and I think I once heard one of his piano works, without it making any special impression on me. Which is the reason why I put the CD in my player without much enthusiasm. And lo and behold; there I was on my couch, enjoying it shamelessly and with bated breath!

Pavel Gintov plays ‘Chaos’ from Bortkiewicz’s Esquisses de Crimée:

Bortkiewicz was born in 1877 in Kharkov, a Ukrainian city known for its many uprisings, amongst others that of the Cossack leader Khmielnicki. Since 1667, the city, together with the eastern part of Ukraine, belonged to the Russian Empire and when the Bolsheviks took over Kharkov, Bortkiewicz’s family was completely robbed of everything they owned.

Together with his wife, the composer fled, first to the Crimea and from there, along with one hundred and fifty other thousand Russian refugees, to Constantinople. On the way his mother sadly succumbed to typhus.

Helped by friends, the Bortkiewiczs continued on their way to Sofia and Belgrade, eventually reaching Vienna. In 1925, they acquired the Austrian nationality. After the Second World War, the composer was appointed head of the teaching programme at the Vienna Conservatory.

In 1952, Bortkiewicz briefly became popular but he was soon simply forgotten. His very accessible piano pieces are strongly inspired by Chopin, Liszt and early Scriabin, but Schumann is never far away either. The Esquisses de Crimée op. 8 were composed by Bortkiewicz in 1908 as an ode to the stunning landscapes of the Crimean peninsula where he was living at the time.

The Ukrainian pianist Pavel Gintov plays very beautifully, his touch is supple and his interpretation fiery.

Sergei Bortkiewicz
Esquisses de Crimée op. 8 – Minuit op. 5 – Lyrica Nova op. 59 – Lamentation and Consolation op. 17 nr. 3 & 4 – Étude in gis, op. 15 No. 6 – in E, op. 15 No. 10 – in C-sharp, op. 29 No. 3 – in E flat, op. 29 no. 6 – Prélude in B flat, op. 40 No. 2 – in F-sharp, op. 40 No. 4 – in E, op. 40 no. 7 – Consolation in E-flat, op. 17 No. 8
Pavel Gintov (piano)
Piano Classics PCL0120 – 65′

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