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Bhagwan Thadani
19 Laval Drive

MR THADANI's website is at also at

It was more than 30 years ago that I first heard the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz, played by Moritz Rosenthal. It was the Etude, Op. 15, No. 8 and it absolutely enthralled me with its sweeping melody and great climaxes. I wanted to search out more of his gorgeous music, to play it myself. It was then than I realized that this was no easy task. Sergei Bortkiewicz was a composer relegated to the obscure back rooms of music's Hall of Fame and his major piano scores were no longer in print. In fact it took me more than 20 years to acquire most of his compositions for solo piano.

Such a situation really intrigued me. How was it that a composer born in the 19th century, a contemporary of Scriabin, Rachmaninov, Glazounov and others, who outlived all of them and died in 1952, should be forgotten so completely? He lived into the age of stereo recording and yet not a single example of his piano playing is available. He was a Russian, and no mention is made of him in books on music published in Russia.

It was only after I got a copy of his autobiographical sketches, "Erinerrungen" (Recollections), published in 1971 that I was able to understand partially, Bortkiewicz's character and Weltanschauung. These recollections, at times whimsical and amusing but never dull, also explain to a certain extent the oblivion into which he has been relegated.

Sergei Eduardovich Bortkiewicz, was born in Kharkov in 1877 in a wealthy family of land-owners. He spent a happy childhood in the family estate of Artiomowka, about 24 kilometers from Kharkov, and showed an early interest in music. At the insistence of his father, after finishing his schooling, he left for St. Petersburg and enrolled in the Faculty of Law, as well as the Imperial Conservatory of Music.

The Petersburg Conservatory at that time was held in high regard and counted professors such as Rimsky-Korsakov, Liadov, Glazounov, and Blumenfeld on its teaching staff. It was there that Bortkiewicz received his musical training, while at the same time trying to study law.

For three years he dutifully undertook his law examinations, but never completed his fourth year and decided to leave the University so as to proceed abroad for further musical studies. But before that he had to complete one year of compulsory military service so that the authorities would issue him a passport to travel abroad.

Indeed, it was one of his great desires from early youth. He especially wanted to go to Germany, the land of Goethe and Wagner, where he thought he could discover wider horizons, and get a more thorough education.

So in the fall of 1899 he started his military service in St. Petersburg, but soon developed a lung inflammation due to the rigorous military life and was discharged from military service because of poor health. Early next year he left Petersburg for good and travelled to Leipzig, where he became a student of Alfred Reisenauer, who had been one of the favored students of the legendary Liszt. Bortkiewicz, in turn, was one of the favorites of Reisenauer, and it is to him that he dedicated his splendid set of Etudes, Op. 15. It is with reluctance that he describes Reisenauer's alcoholism and his early death due to a heart attack at the age of 43, brought about by alcohol addiction.

After his first year of musical studies, Bortkiewicz spent the summer in Italy, learning Italian and giving concerts. He returned to Leipzig, studying assiduously, attending many concerts and was much impressed by the conducting of Arthur Nikisch. Years later, the conductor was enthusiastic about Bortkiewicz's Piano Concerto, No. 1, Op. 16 and strongly recommended its publication.

In July 1902, Bortkiewicz completed his studies at the Leipzig Conservatory, and was awarded the Schumann Prize. That summer he returned to Russia and to the family estate of Artiomowka where he met his future wife, Elisabeth Geraklitowa.

He gave concerts in Kharkov and also played with the symphony orchestra of the city. In July 1904, he married Elisabeth and traveled back to Germany, where he settled down in Berlin. It was only after marriage that he started composing seriously. His first publisher was Daniel Rahter of Leipzig, who unfortunately died early; the firm was subsequently taken over by A.S. Benjamin.

From 1904 till 1914, Bortkiewicz lived in Berlin, spending his summers in Russia, or traveling over Europe. For a year he also taught at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory, but left it after some unpleasant experiences. He then took to concertizing not only in Germany, but also in Vienna, Budapest, Italy, Paris and Russia. However, the career of a virtuoso did not appeal to him and he concentrated instead on composition and teaching.

His Etudes, Op. 15 had just been published by D. Rahter when he was in Berlin, and it was there that he found a lifelong friend in Hugo van Dalen, the Dutch pianist and composer (1888-1967). Dalen told him that it was through his playing of the Etude Op. 15, No. 8 that he had met his wife. She liked the piece so much that she came up to van Dalen to ask the composer's name. This acquaintance led to their marriage, as a result of which Bortkiewicz unofficially named this etude the "Verlobungsetude" (Betrothal etude).

The outbreak of the war in 1914 shattered Bortkiewicz's life. Being a Russian alien in Germany he was suspected of being a spy and placed under house arrest. After 6 weeks he was allowed to leave for Russia through Sweden and Finland. He established himself in Kharkov as a music teacher, at the same time giving concerts in Orel and Moscow, where he met Scriabin, whose music he much admired. He describes Scriabin as a slightly built man, with an upturned moustache. "Just imagine Chopin or Raphael with a moustache à la Wilhelm II!" he writes mischievously.

The situation took a turn for the worse in 1917 with the collapse of the Russian army. There was chaos in southern Russia till the German army occupied Kharkov in March 1918 and some order was restored by the German soldiers. However, after the German withdrawal in November, there was a complete social breakdown. Food, electricity and heating oil was scarce. Bortkiewicz describes how his piano students had to sit at the piano in furs and hats, with frost-bitten fingers, continuously drinking tea to keep warm.

The Bolsheviks did not spare Bortkiewicz and plundered his family estate at Artiomowka. In the summer of 1919 he moved on to Crimea with his wife, where he lived in two furnished rooms in Sevastopol with a view of the harbor of Yalta. He rented a piano and composed his haunting Nocturne Op. 24, No. 1, subtitled Diana, during a wonderful moonlit night.

He had decided to leave Russia and waited till November of 1920 till he found place on a crowded steamer bound for Constantinople, now Istanbul, arriving with only 20 dollars in his pocket. His 1.5 million roubles were totally worthless! But his fame had preceded him and soon he was able to attract a cosmopolitan group of students from the well-to-do families in the city. He taught them in French and English.

"Knowing the strict morals of Orientals," he writes, "I had to put up with the presence of mamas or aunts who did not want to leave me alone with young ladies, and read a book during my lessons, while casting suspicious glances at my hands; and even with the presence of a husband who suddenly appeared in the room and looked at my posture jealously." Bortkiewicz did have a sense of humor!

In almost two years he had earned enough money from piano lessons and concerts to think of emigrating to Europe. He had established his old business contact with his publisher D. Rahter and set his goal as Vienna. He did not regret his decision to move on; within a couple of months after his departure, Kemal-Pascha had taken over Istanbul and the Sultan had abdicated. The majority of his students, Greeks and Armenians, had to leave the city.

A new chapter in his life began. He passed through Sofia to Belgrade where he had to wait for quite some time till he obtained an Austrian visa. Finally, he and his wife boarded a Danube steamer and arrived in Vienna on 22 July, 1922.

In 1928 he went to Paris for half a year and then to Berlin, a city which he loved; but again he had to leave because, being a Russian, he was persecuted by the Nazis and his name was deleted from all musical programs. He returned to Vienna in 1935 where he found a suitable residence in Blechturmgasse. He remained in this city till his death in 1952.

The war years 1939-1945 was a terrible time for Bortkiewicz and his wife. Three times, as he recounts in his letters to van Dalen, he was close to death as the Allied bombs rained down on Vienna and the Russians advanced on the city. A postcard from December 1945 reveals how he lived. "I am writing to you from my bathroom," he writes there, "where we have crept in, because it is small and can be warmed now and then by a gas flame... I don't believe in happiness anymore, rather that I am a dead man." To add to his woes, his wife's mental condition had deteriorated due to the hardships of the war and he had to look after her continuously.

All of his music scores were destroyed during the bombardment of Leipzig and his financial situation was desperate. His friend van Dalen, too, seemed to have deserted him in the post-war years, adding to his growing melancholia. He had been suffering from a stomach ailment for quite some, most probably cancer, and on the advice of his physician, he decided to undergo an operation in October 1952. He never recovered and passed away on the 25th of October, 1952. His wife, who was childless, died 8 years later in 1960 in Vienna.

It seems Bortkiewicz was on the wrong side of the fence wherever he went. Though he spoke German fluently and even wrote his "Erinnerungen" in this language, he was not looked upon too kindly in Austria, perhaps because of his Russian origin and the behavior of Soviet troops when they occupied Vienna. In 1977, twenty five years after his death, the Viennese civic authorities levelled his grave in the city cemetery.

The autographs of his unpublished works, which were in van Dalen's possession were bequeathed by van Dalen to the Gemeentemuseum in the Hague. It took me quite an effort to locate Bortkiewicz's Sonata No.2, Op. 60 in this museum and publish it in 1996. Very recently, Malcolm Ballan of Southampton, England, finally found the autographs of his 2 Symphonies in the Fisher Collection in Philadelphia, where Bortkiewicz had sent them for safe keeping just before his death.

It interesting to speculate why Bortkiewicz never recorded his own music, though he lived into the age of high fidelity. Why, one can even hear Scriabin or Saint-Saens playing their works, thanks to the reproducing piano. A clue to his "old-fashioned" attitude is to be found in the remarks he makes in the Erinnerungen. "It is certain, at least for me, that the Mechanization of Art nowadays is a big backward step. The cinema is the greatest enemy of theatre, the radio - of music at home and of concerts." I guess he stuck to his beliefs and refused to record his music "mechanically" for posterity, though during the war years he performed his works in various radio stations.

In 1995 I decided to record all of Bortkiewicz's music that I had in my possession, including all orchestral works. So far I have made 11 CDs of his music including the two great Symphonies, in the hope that the magnificent music of this last great romantic will not be forgotten. © Bhagwan N. Thadani


"Recollections, Letters and Documents" Translated from German and annotated by B.N. Thadani. Cantext Publications, Winnipeg, Canada. 1997. ISBN 0-921267-26-6

"Discovering the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz," Clavier, Jan. 1996.

List of works

I have always been passionately fond of the piano, having played it for more than 50 years, and lately have taken to publishing rare piano scores and recording the music on CD's. My interest is in the Russian composers of the late 19th, early 20th centuries, specially the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) Felix Blumenfeld (1863-1931), Constantin Antipov (1859 - ?), Cesar Cui (1835-1918), and the French composer, Benjamin Godard (1849-1895). I discovered Bortkiewicz's Second Sonata #2, Op. 60 in a museum in the Netherlands and published it in 1995. Since then I have published the following music scores under the Cantext Publications imprint.

Sonata #2, Op. 60, Sergei Bortkiewicz, 1995 - $10
Selected Works, Bortkiewicz, 1996 - $10
Sonate-Fantaise, Blumenfeld, 1996 - $10
Selected Works, Blumenfeld, - $10
Russian Rhapsody, Bortkiewicz - $10 from an autograph discovered in a museum in the Netherlands
Recollections, Letters and Documents" by Bortkiewicz, which I translated from the German, and which, with my annotations, is the definitieve biography of the composer,1997 - $15
Concerto #2, Op. 28, Bortkiewicz for the left hand, arranged for solo piano by me. - $14
All prices are in US $ and include postage

My article on Sergei Bortkiewicz appeared in the Jan. 1996 number of the music magazine Clavier. Please contact me if you are interested in any of these publications.


So far I have made 19 CDs of the works of my favorite composers listed below. Most of these recordings are world premier recordings; in fact, it may be the first time they have been played after almost 6 decades. A synthesizer was used for the orchestral accompaniment for the concertos.

Each CD costs $17 US or the equivalent in local currency. You are entitled to a 20 % discount if you order more than one CD, and can pay me by personal cheque made out to me. Allow 10 days for delivery

CD-1 Felix Blumenfeld - Piano Works
Preludes, Op. 17 (1 to 24); Sonate-Fantaisie, Op. 46; Preludes, Op. 12 (1 to 4)
Deux Morceaux, Op. 37; Deux Fragments, Op. 33

CD-2 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works Vol. 1
Etudes, Op. 15 (1 to 10); Etudes, Op. 29 (1 to 12); Trois Morceaux Op. 6 (1 to 3)

CD-3 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works, Vol. 2 Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 28 for the left hand alone; Piano Concerto No. 3, Op. 32 "Per aspera ad astra"; Russian Rhapsody, Op. 46

CD-4 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Works, Vol. 3 "Othello", Op. 19; Oesterreichische Suite, Op. 51; Trois morceaux pour violoncello et piano, Op. 25; Trois morceaux, Op. 6

CD-5 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works Vol. 4 Sonata No. 2, Op. 60; Quatre Morceaux pour piano, Op. 3 Impressions. Sept Morceaux pour piano, Op. 4; Minuit: Deux Morceaux, Op. 5

CD-6 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works, Vol. 5 Ein Roman für Klavier, Op. 35; Deux morceaux, Op. 7; Esquisses de Crimée, Op. 8; Six Preludes, Op. 13; Trois Morceaux, Op. 24

CD-7 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Works, Vol. 6 Cello Concerto, Op. 20; Trois morceaux pour piano, Op. 12; Trois morceaux, Op. 24; Im 3/4 Takt, Op. 48

CD-8 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Works, Vol. 7 Violin Concerto, Op. 22; Sonate pour violon et piano, Op. 26; Marionettes, Op. 54

CD-9 Felix Blumenfeld - Works, Vol. 2 Deux Nocturnes, Op. 6; Valse Impromptu, Op. 16; Nocturne Fantaisie, Op. 20 Trois Morceaux, Op. 21; Impromptu, Op. 26; Dix Moments Lyriques, Op. 27 Près de l'eau, Op. 38; Deux Impromptus, Op. 45; Allegro de concert pour piano et orchestre, Op. 7

CD-10 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works, Vol. 8 Sonata No. 1, Op. 9; Lamentations et Consolations, Op. 17; Pensées Lyriques, Op. 11

CD-11 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works, Vol. 9 Elégie, Op. 46; Dix Preludes, Op. 33; Sieben Preluden für Klavier, Op. 40; Trois Valses, Op. 27; Lyrica Nova, Op. 59; Der kleine Wanderer, Op. 21

CD-12 Sergei Bortkiewicz - Piano Works, Vol. 10 Tausend und eine Nacht, Op. 37; Aus meiner Kindheit, Op. 14; Ballade, Op. 42

CD-13 C. Antipov and C. Cui - Piano Works Antipov: 5 Morceaux, Op. 5; Preludes, Op. 8, 10; Miniatures, Op. 9 Valse et Etude, Op. 11; Nocturne, Op. 12 Cui: Trois Valses, Op. 31; Cinq Morceaux, Op. 52; Esquisse; Intermezzo; Impromptu; Scherzino

CD-14 Felix Blumenfeld - Piano Works, Vol. 3 Quatre Morceaux, Op. 2; Deux Morceaux, Op. 22; Suite Lyrique, Op. 32; Ballade, Op. 34; Cloches - Suite, Op. 40; 2 Fragments Lyriques, Op. 47; Trois Nocturnes, Op. 51; Episodes de la vie d'une danseuse, Op. 52 Vier Klavierstücke, Op. 53

CD-15 Benjamin Godard - Piano Works Sonate Fantastique, Op. 63; Deuxième Sonate, Op. 94; Chemin faisant, Op. 53 (1, 6); Au matin, Op. 83; Etude, Op. 149-II, No. 4 Etude, Op. 149-IV, No. 1; Fourth Barcarolle; Valse chromatique, Op. 88 Chopin, Op. 66, No. 2

CD-16 C. Antipov and C. Cui - Works, Vol. 2 Antipov: Trois Etudes pour piano, Op. 1; Variations, Op. 3; Quatre Morceaux, Op. 6; Allegro symphonique pour orchestre, Op. 7; Impromptu et Valse, Op. 13 Cui: Trois mouvements de Valse, Op. 41; Vier Klavierstücke, Op. 22; Tenèbres et Lueurs

CD-17 Benjamin Godard - Works, Vol. 2 Etudes Artistiques (1 to 12), Op. 42; Musset; Kermesse, Op. 51; Renouveau, Op. 82; Tziganka, Op. 134; Fantaisie Persane for piano and orchestra, Op. 152.

CD-18 Benjamin Godard - Works, Vol. 3 Etudes artistiques (13 to 24), Op. 107; Barcarolle, Op. 77; Piano Concerto No. 2, Op. 148; Barcarolle, Op. 105

CD-19 Benjamin Godard - Works, Vol. 4 Impressions de Campagne (1 to 16), Op. 123; Lanterne Magique, Op. 55 (1, 3, 6); Les Hirondelles, Op. 14; Introduction et Allegro pour Piano et Orchestre, Op. 49

Available from:
Bhagwan Thadani
19 Laval Drive


Sergei Eduardovich BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1952) Vol. 2: Three works for piano and orchestra
Piano Concerto No. 2 (1922) 25 mins
Piano Concerto No. 3 Per Aspera ad Astra (1927) 28 mins
Russian Rhapsody (1930) 13 mins
  Bhagwan Thadani (piano) 'orchestra directed' by Daniel Oke Note: the orchestral sound is produced using computer generation to synthesise the orchestral canvas. BHAGWAN THADANI private recording CD3 [66.38]

Bhagwan Thadani (a pianist now living in Winnipeg, Canada) has made the tracing, performance and recording of the works of Bortkiewicz a life's mission. His achievement is staggering, prompting comparisons with the LP/cassette era legacy of Grant Johanessen's complete Liszt and Busoni cycles. Years have been spent in tracing, reprinting, performing and recording the works. There are currently ten volumes of CDs published by Mr Thadani and another ten or so recording the neglected piano works of Antipov, Blumenfeld and Godard. This achievement seems to have been studiously ignored by the usual review channels perhaps because Mr Thadani has had to use a computer synthetic to record the sound of the orchestral part of the concertos.

This present disc acts as a nice complement to the Hyperion CD of the First Piano Concerto with two single movement concertos each playing five or minutes under half an hour and prompting comparisons and contrasts with the Medtner Ballade Piano Concerto (No. 3). The second concerto and the rhapsody were both written for the left hand alone and, unsurprisingly, were commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein, the dedicatee of the more famous Ravel, Schmidt, Strauss and Korngold concertante works for piano left-hand.

Second Piano Concerto

This launches in an atmosphere of vehement hyper-romantic turbulence sustained for most of its compact length. It is more a child of tempest than anything in Rachmaninov and the soloist's part follows a similar style. Along the way there are Tchaikovskian episodes and the big theme has more than a little in sympathy with Rachmaninov's piano concerto No. 2. This work however seems more modern than the Tchaikovsky. It has more in common with Rachmaninov and Medtner. The big theme from the latter's second piano concerto is also hinted at. It has more gravity than the Saint-Saens concertos or the Palmgrens, enjoyable though they are. It has the bounce and élan of the more exuberant moments from the Delius piano concerto. The orchestral impression is one of urgency and no little excitement. A carefree tone and humming bright eagerness reaches out to us in the closing pages of the first movement suggesting momentary inspiration from Borodin's Polovtsian Dances. The themes and treatment are more openly accessible than the ochre-toned subtlety of the Medtner concertos. If you appreciate the Tchaikovsky second piano concerto, the Rachmaninovs, the Arensky and the Scriabin concertos you will like this ... and like it very much. This is a comprehensively enjoyable romantic concerto which stands out from amongst the crowd.

The synthesised accompaniment will not fool you into thinking this is a real orchestra but that was not the intention. What you get is a mind's ear approximation of the orchestral sound and for the most part the ear psychologically 'reconstructs' an orchestral sound quite successfully 'on the fly'. The violin and percussion instrument sounds are not successful although they are less of a problem in orchestral numbers than in solo. The cello solo in the cello concerto is very believable as also is the horn solo towards 19.40 in the first movement of the second concerto. At all times an indulgent and kindly ear is necessary but then why make obstacles for yourself. Until orchestras and record companies take up these works we can enjoy Mr Thadani's precious CDs as pathfinders.

As for the solo part Mr Thadani probably knows these concertos better than any man alive. Bonfires of notes, clouds of sparks, sheet lightning and thunderous display are all there in abundance. His technique seems fully equal to the challenges both in bravura and in reflection.

Third Piano Concerto

While the second concerto is hardly ever out of wind-blown flight and romantic torment the third occupies a subtle and more varied landscape although delivering far from short measure in the late-romantic upheaval stakes. The soloist nicely catches the variations in tempo and the orchestra (as with the second concerto) is comfortably integrated with the solo piano picture. The exertion and intensity is grand in scale and well worth your time. Listen to the nicely conjured horns at 10.25 accompanying the piano. Once again there is an infusion of Rachmaninov's grand and faintly lachrymose heroism; at all times dignified and grandly clangorous like a landscape of noisy bell towers in icily sonorous counterpoint. Little details stand out: e.g. the harp, totally believable, at 15.50 and 18.21 in partnership with the solo piano. A stunning change of gear and a great relaxation comes at 16.30 where pulse slows. The work is never boring and always mobile with crystalline incident at times evocative of the Grieg concerto. The peroration from 26.17 is grandly leonine and frankly totally enjoyable. Not once does display, of which there is a lot, suffocate musical ideas. Display and poetry, fireworks and dramatic moment are in equipoise.

Russian Rhapsody for Left Hand alone

This starts with galloping theme in a nocturnal journey. In sympathy with the other two concertos this has a franker melodic debt to Russian folk song (yes - The Volga Boat Song! - 09.02) and the Kuchka's brand of nationalism. This drifts Bortkiewicz into the mildly corny in the manner of Chopin's Krakowiak during the central dance episode. Good fun nonetheless.

Now I do hope that Mr Thadani will look at one of Rachmaninov's British exponents: Richard Sacheverell Coke whose six piano concertos and extensive piano solo catalogue made a brief éclat in the UK during the 1920 and 1930s and was then utterly forgotten.

Of the three discs I have heard so far this is the one to get if you must limit yourself to one purchase.

Rob Barnett

(special category computer synthesised orchestral and solo cello sound)

Each CD costs $17 US or the equivalent in local currency. You are entitled to a 20 % discount if you order more than one CD, and can pay me by personal cheque made out to me. Allow 10 days for delivery

Violin Concerto (1922)
Violin Sonata (1924)
Marionettes - nine pieces for solo piano (1938)
  'Orchestra directed' by Daniel Oke Gordon Templeton (violin) Bhagwan Thadani (piano) Note: the orchestral sound is produced using computer generation to synthesise the orchestral canvas. BHAGWAN THADANI private recording CD8 [72.29]

As early as Vol. 2 of his momentous Bortkiewicz series Bhagwan Thadani decided to include works with orchestra. It would cost far too much to hire a real orchestra so he opted for a synthesiser to give an approximation of the orchestral partner. While the piano concertos present a real sound (Mr Thadani's piano) alongside the synthesis the violin concerto is totally synthetic in this recording with both solo and orchestra emulated by the synthesiser.

The light-stepping long-limbed theme of the first movement rolls out with tireless stamina - a tribute to the composer's fertility of invention. However enjoyment requires far more suspension of disbelief or psycho-acoustic re-creation than the disc of the two piano concertos. The obstacle is that the sound of the violin solo must be a less successful approximation than the results achieved for the cello. It sometimes comes perilously close to sounding like a Dutch theatre organ - miniaturised. The keyboard origins of the synthesis are difficult to mask and the undulating legato of the bowed instrument can be difficult to emulate. You can see where it is going and how the violin would sound but a greater leap of faith is required.

Putting this aside, athletic lyricism is there in full but the temperature is far less than the super-heated romantic furnace of the piano concertos. The ambition is linked to the same horizons as the Saint-Saens violin concertos rather than say the Elgar or the Tchaikovsky or the Brahms. The central Poème is stronger in drama with touches of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique final movement. The final movement has an infusion of squeeze-box jollity, Rimskian Easter festivals and the air of the Glazunov violin concerto. The work is naively engaging, somewhat conventional and not as impressive as the taut and high pressure piano concertos or cello concerto. Still it is fully worthy to take its place in Hyperion's romantic violin concerto series with the Arensky, de Boeck, Pfitzner, Reger, Freitas Branco, the splendid Mieczyslaw Karlowicz and from a later era but still consummately on-song the Janis Ivanovs concerto.

The Sonata takes us back to the natural sound of Mr Thadani's piano but leaves exposed the challengingly Hammond-accented sound of the solo violin. The relaxation and diversion of the concerto is here contrasted with a much more grown up and Tchaikovskian passion. This might very easily arrange as a violin concerto. The main theme of the first movement is insistently shadowy and impassioned. Thankfully the piano part is not at all the subjugated and purely accompanimental 'along for the ride' role we might have feared. The middle andante is charmingly done and clearly a movement of some gentle melodic confidence. A darting allegro vivace rounds out the sonata in humming bird brio and flouncing dervish fantasy. Do I detect a touch of the Istanbul where the composer spent the years 1919-1922. By the way the violin sound is much more successful in the more percussive staccato moments.

The Marionettes is a sequence of nine skilful salon charmers - pert little character pieces designed for the piano stool commercial market and with titles such as The Cossack, The Gipsy and Teddy Bear. These are nicely despatched by Mr Thadani being more abrasively interesting and emotionally developed than a Macdowell sequence. The Chinese and Teddy Bear are more challenging, stylistically speaking, with the former linking into the enthusiasm for 1920s (and earlier) chinoiseries e.g. the Bethge translations of Li Tai Po for Mahler's Das Lied and the Chinese songs of Schierbeck, Bliss, Lambert and Van Dieren.


Rob Barnett

(special category computer synthesised orchestral and solo cello sound)

Cello Concerto (1922) 28.59
Trois Morceaux (1910)
Trois Morceaux (1922)
In ¾ Time (1932)
  Bhagwan Thadani (piano) 'Orchestra directed' by Daniel Oke
Note: the orchestral sound is produced using computer generation to synthesise the orchestral canvas. BHAGWAN THADANI private recording CD7 [68.30]

Brahms first symphony is sometimes spoken of as Beethoven's tenth. Well, Bortkiewicz's cello concerto plays like the Cello Concerto Tchaikovsky (or for that matter Rachmaninov) never wrote. It is in two movements, the first of which is torrentially melodic with suggestions of the last movement of Tchaikovsky's Pathétique and of Rachmaninov and towards its end a Mozartian airiness carried by the dialogue of flute and cello (15.12). The surging and receding passion takes us once again into the world of Rachmaninov's second piano concerto.

The second movement buzzes and hums with a melting pot of rumba, tarantella and havanaise. Although of greater emotional breadth it reminded me of Glazunov's and Frank Bridge's brief character pieces for cello and orchestra but the lights and darks are deeper. This is an exciting and dashing romantic concerto which should immediately be taken up by the world's inspirational young cellists otherwise trapped in a repertory limited by the standard concert 'draws' of Elgar, Dvorak and Saint-Saens.

The whole listening experience is greatly aided by the fact that the cello sound is a more credible synthesis than the sound of the solo in the violin concerto. Listen for example to the section of cello sound at 2.16 in the first movement.

The rest of the disc takes us back to the natural sound of Mr Thadani's piano and his dedicated pianism.

The 1910 trilogy of three dances (Morceaux) floats past us in procession: a dignified Mazurka, a Gavotte of sparkling velocity and a stormy Polonaise somewhat predictive of the tumult of the second and third piano concertos.

The trio of piano pieces from twelve years later starts strongly with the Nocturne-Diana, inspired by a wonderful moonlit night in Yalta in which the shades of Chopin and Rachmaninov drifted in nostalgic ease. The Valse Grotesque (Satyre) is of quasi-Bartókian percussiveness which carries over into the final panel (Eros) and from which emerges music paralleling by Rachmaninov's Preludes.

The waltz sequence of six miniatures are light on the listener and so undemandingly entertaining that they can be overheard. The final allegro robusto is memorably tense.

I can hardly wait to hear Bortkiewicz 's two symphonies. Going by Grove V they should date from circa 1935 and 1939 respectively. After many years these were finally tracked down in the Philadelphia Free Library. Mr Thadani is now busy producing a recording of these symphonies using the now accustomed computer synthesis. We can hope that these and other works will be taken up by adventurous recording companies and orchestras. Perhaps someone will now start to take up this same approach to other composers including Josef Holbrooke and Frederic Cliffe. Perhaps Mr Thadani will also turn his attention to the Op. 53 Overture and the Yugoslav Suite both circa 1938.

As usual, succinctly informative notes are provided by Mr Thadani on 'plain jane' paper inserts - nicely designed.


Rob Barnett

(special category computer synthesised orchestral and solo cello sound)

Each CD costs $17 US or the equivalent in local currency. You are entitled to a 20 % discount if you order more than one CD, and can pay me by personal cheque made out to me. Allow 10 days for delivery

Bhagwan Thadani

19 Laval Drive



MR THADANI's website is at or



Rob Barnett

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