MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Nederlands Muziek Institut


Sergei BORTKIEWICZ (1877-1952)
Piano Concerto No. 2 (left-hand only) op. 28 (1923) [29:17]
Piano Concerto No. 3 Per aspera ad astra op. 32 (1926) [29:06]
Stefan Doniga (piano)
Czech Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra/David Porcelijn
rec. Concert Hall of the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Ostrava, 9-13 June 2008. DDD

How extraordinary that two stirring romantic piano concertos of this calibre should have been ignored for so long. 

The Ukrainian composer-pianist Bortkiewicz wrote music rooted robustly in the late nineteenth century romantic tradition. If you warm to the piano concertos of Scriabin, Rachmaninov and Medtner then this is for you. You might remember Bortkiewicz for the Hyperion CD of his two symphonies - well worth seeking out for their Tchaikovskian drama and pathos. Then again true disciples of this site may recall a review of the whole sequence of CDs produced by Bhagwan Thadani. 

Bortkiewicz was blown cruelly hither and thither by fate and the great tragic sweep of mid-twentieth century history. His Second Concerto which is for left-hand was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein (1887-1961) who resolutely denied others the chance to perform or record it until his death. He had paid for it and he owned it - end of story. Wittgenstein premiered the work in Vienna in November 1923 and played it many times through 1924-30. However Siegfried Rapp (1915-1982) who lost his right arm in WW2 was not, it seems, permitted to perform it until 1952-3 when he included it in concerts in Reichenhall and Dresden. This story is comparable with Harriet Cohen's exclusive and fierce grip on Bax's Symphonic Variations (the Wass performance recently issued on Naxos) and Winter Legends. Strangely enough, Bax also wrote a left-hand Concertante for piano and orchestra but this was for Harriet after she had injured the tendons in her right hand; no Wittgenstein connection there. 

The Second Concerto is a potent and heaving romantic brew with a mood signature close to the Rachmaninov Second Piano Concerto on which it was surely modelled. It's a pleasing work even if strongly indebted to Rachmaninov. In the final Allegro Vivo we switch from superheated romance to the silvery Russian slav nationalism of Borodin and Rimsky just as Bortkiewicz did with his two symphonies on Hyperion (review). 

The Third Concerto is subtitled Per aspera ad astra – through adversity to the stars. It's about the same length as its predecessor but dates from 1925. It was premiered in 1927 just two years before he chose to move to Germany at the time of the rise of Adolf Hitler. His music had its supporters including Hans Anklwicz-Kleehoven (1883-1962) who funded the publication of much of his music and founded the Bortkiewicz Society. However unlike Medtner, Bortkiewicz was not to find a Rajah of Mysore to fund a recording programme. The Concerto is redolent of the Rachmaninov First and Fourth Piano Concertos and perhaps a little of the rather fine concerto by Arensky. Interestingly at 2.56 in the Andante of the Third Concerto he recalls the turbulent breakers at the start of his own Second Piano Concerto. It's glorious stuff and will surely please you if you enjoy the Giannini piano concerto and the Bortkiewicz's closer models: the four Rachmaninov concertos. The Third Concerto is more closely aligned with Rachmaninov than with Medtner. There's a peaceful benediction of a Lento but this gives way to a fine Moderato finale, rising to a grandiloquently Delian sunrise. In the triumphantly belling peroration soloist and orchestra vie with each other in heroic apotheosis. 

The First Piano Concerto can be heard on Hyperion coupled with some Arensky. His music for violin and piano is on Warner Classics. 

We must hope fervently for a recording of the fine Violin Concerto and Cello Concerto. 

Meantime Klaas Trapmann has recorded three two-CD volumes of Bortkiewicz's solo piano music and these can be had from the Nederlands Muziek Instituut. 

After the privations of life in wartime Berlin he returned to Vienna and having enjoyed one grand all-Bortkiewicz concert he died in 1952.

Rob Barnett



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.