American Record Guide

This is Volume 12 in Divine Art’s Russian Piano Music series, and it joins other fine recordings of this composer, whose music will appeal immediately to anyone who enjoys the music of Rachmaninoff. I recently reviewed many of the same pieces played by Nadejda Vlaeva (Hyperion 68118, July/Aug 2016). I have also reviewed six of the nine discs by Jouni Somero on the Finnish FC label (9723 & 9736, Sept/Oct 2012; 9740, 9741, 9742, Jan/Feb 2013). Soldano’s work here and the recording and booklet qualities all stand up fully to the other recordings.

Bortkiewicz’s piano writing is stylistically influenced by Chopin, Schumann, Tchaikov¬sky, and Liadov. The technical requirements are similar to what is found in Rachmaninoff.
With few exceptions, Bortkiewicz’s piano writ¬ing calls for a very secure technique. He is skillful at writing beautiful melodies, and I find his music generally positive and bright. There is drama, poetry, brilliance, and even some sadness and melancholy (though not to the level we usually associate with Rachmaninoff). He described himself as a romantic and a melodist, with an aversion to what he called modern, atonal, and cacophonous music. In the four Lyrica Nova one hears touches of Scriabin, but these are still solidly in the late romantic style and display Bortkiewicz’s melodic skill.

Sonata 2 is a big (22 minutes) four-move¬ment work that was first published in 1995. Composed in 1942 and premiered by the com¬poser, it was assumed lost for many years. It is striking in its use several times of short phras¬es from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto 2— not a complete tune, but enough for any melody detective to sit up and take notice. The Esquisses de Crimee are four pieces united by a common theme that have a little oriental fla¬vor. The short pieces are all excellent represen¬tations of Bortkiewicz’s compositional skill with small forms.

Soldano (b. 1986) is one of the last long¬time students of Aldo Ciccolini. He clearly has an great affinity for this music and has also written a biography of Bortkiewicz. I have enjoyed this many times.

—James Harrington