Bortkiewicz, Serge


Bortkiewicz, Serge

Piano Concerto in B-flat Op. 16

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Sergei Bortkiewicz – Concerto in B-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra, op. 16

(b. 28/16 February 1877, Kharkiv — d. 25 October 1952, Vienna)



The life of Sergei Eduardovich Bortkiewicz was not among the most trouble-free in the lexicon of composers: a nineteenth-century romantic seeking a name for himself in the twentieth century, he was, like so many composers on the European mainland, a frequent victim of changing political circumstances. Born to landed gentry of Polish extraction in the Russian city of Kharkov (now the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv), he inherited his love for music from his mother and received music instruction from local teachers. Upon completing the Gymnasium in 1895, he left for St. Petersburg, where he studied law at the University and, at the same time, music at the Imperial Conservatory, where his teachers included Karel Pieter Hendrik van Ark (1839-1902) in piano and Anatol Lyadov (1855-1914) in theory. With one year remaining in his law studies, a student uprising resulted in the closure of the University, and Bortkiewicz entered the military, from which he was dismissed several months later on account of illness. In 1900 he began two years’ worth of study at the Leipzig Conservatory, where his teachers included the Liszt pupils Alfred Reisenauer (1863-1907) in piano and Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902) in composition. By this time Bortkiewicz was already beginning to feel himself more a composer than a pianist, and his activity during the following eleven years in Berlin (1904-1914) increasingly resembled that of a composer who performed primarily in order to propagate his own works. The one constant in these years, and indeed throughout the rest of his life, was Lisaveta Geraklitova, a friend of his sister’s, whom he married in 1904.

Upon the outbreak of the First World War he was compelled to return to Russia, resuming residence at the family estate near Kharkov. Fleeing the progress of the Bolsheviks, he settled briefly in Yalta, then Constantinople, and eventually Vienna, which was to be his primary residence, with one significant interruption, from 1922 until the end of his life. This interruption spanned the years 1928-1932, during which he lived for half a year in Paris, then in Berlin; like several other composers at the time (one thinks of Schoenberg and Schreker), he was apparently less dissatisfied with Vienna than with the career opportunities it afforded. But the Nazi rise to power quashed any such opportunities in Germany for a native Russian – his Austrian citizenship, granted in 1926, did not make him any less persona non grata on concert programs – and so he returned to Vienna, where company of a close circle of friends made up for the modest and (especially during the war years) frequently precarious circumstances in which he lived. …


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Score Data


Repertoire Explorer


Keyboard & Orchestra


210 x 297 mm





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