Having traversed the complete piano works of Bortkiewicz, Bhagwan Thadani
turns his dedicated attention to the symphonies.
This is the most recent disc in the sequence - only just released. It owes
its existence to Malcolm Henbury-Ballan whose vigilance tracked down these
otherwise lost scores to the wonderful Fleisher Collection at the Free Library
The first symphony declares, through its title, a remembrance of his Russian
homeland recalled from the streets and groves of Vienna. The work is fluently
Tchaikovskian with much angst and upheaval, flighty comedy and Glazunov-like
high jinks in the scherzo. The blindfold test might well place this symphony
circa 1900 (if not earlier). Russian Orthodox chant broods gloweringly through
You might from the title have expected music which is relaxed and nostalgic.
In fact while this is assuredly nostalgic stuff the edges are unsoftened,
the drama is vivid and built by a musician whose reverence for Tchaikovsky
is clear. The title may prepare you for the pictorialism of Raff; the music
is quite other and the template is Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony. I can't
wait to hear this with a real orchestra.
Tchaikovsky again is your guide through the second symphony which is even
more urgently impassioned than its predecessor. It is often exciting, drawing
on the wellsprings of Tchaikovsky (Symphonies 4-5 and Francesca). It is no
pallid facsimile but sullen and angry. The andante sostenuto is akin to the
final movement of Tchaikovsky 6 and builds a lapel-gripping atmosphere. The
finale sustains the excitement but its angst reacts with the same impulsive
Borodin-like music as appears in the finale of No. 1.
I had thought beforehand that with knowledge of the Second and Third piano
concertos these works would be closer to Rachmaninov. In fact there is no
doubting their allegiance to Great Peter. Both symphonies are throwbacks
forty or fifty years linguistically speaking but this does not matter in
There is no denying the intrinsically second or third best nature of synthesised
orchestral sound. That is not Mr Oke's fault. It is to his credit that so
much life and ripeness rises from this synthetic soundscape. When they are
recorded (as assuredly they will when ASV or Hyperion hear this) I hope that
the fervour captured by Oke will still rise like fumes as it does from these
created performances. It will be more than a pity if we get time-serving
routine. I can imagine in my pipe dreams what Mravinsky and the Leningrad
PO would have done with these symphonies.
I hope you will try this disc. It is an ersatz or substitute for the real
thing but then so is any recording.
The music speaks with the accent and confident stride of a master. Doubters
should try the last five minutes of the finale of No. 2.
Recommended for enthusiasts, libraries and new repertoire scouts out to tap
into the bottomless market for a second Tchaikovsky.
PERFORMANCE and MUSIC:
SOUND: synthesiser - special category
See also special article on Bortkiewicz
The disc can be ordered from Mr Thadani at Cantext Publications, 19 Laval
Drive, Winnipeg, Canada R3T 2X3. e-mail: email@example.com