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Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 33, No. 10 in B flat minor

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Sep 20, 2008.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    This prelude is the capstone of the ten Preludes Op. 33 dating from 1926. The piece is marked Patetico. In it I hear a strong Tchaikovsky influence, perhaps in the style of the part de deux from Swan Lake. This prelude is unlike any of the others of Bortkiewicz I have posted to date. I hope you'll like it.

    Comments welcome.

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6'3") just tuned

    Recording: State of the art digital sound using the Korg MR-1000 DSD recorder

    And, as an added bonus, no page turns


    Bortkiewicz - Prelude in B-flat minor, Op. 33, No. 10
     
  2. pianolady

    pianolady Monica Hart, Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Whoa! I'm going to have to remember to play this one when I'm mad at someone and need to let off some steam. Love that ending!

    This one is up, David. And btw - I am completely satisfied! :wink:
     
  3. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I can't remember having heard this one. Seems to have more purpose and drive than many of his other compositions. A good performance, but is it not supposed to be a bit faster and more stormy ? I seem to hear more echoes of Medtner than of Tchaikovsky here.

    Your Baldwin has a nice deep bass sound, not unlike my Gaveau.
     
  4. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Monica,

    I'm glad you were satisfied with this recording. :D I don't know if I'll always be able to do that, but the timing enabled everything to come together nicely on this one. Thanks for the compliment!

    David
     
  5. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your kind words! Patetico is, of course, not a tempo indicator, but more a descriptor of mood. In this piece there is no given tempo marking. I believe that grants some discretion to the pianist. Nor is there a guiding performance practice. For Bortkiewicz's music, all of the performance practices, such as they were--considering that his music was not widely played during his lifetime or thereafter--were lost about 55 years ago. So every performance in our day is not merely an act of re-creating the music, but rather co-creating it with the composer through interpretation. Stephen Coombs does in fact play this piece at a faster tempo, but that's his opinion. Sometimes a fast tempo for Patetico can be quite successful, as with Scriabin's Etude Op. 8, No. 12. At other times, I think there is a danger through a fast tempo of detracting from the sense of Patetico. Josef Hofmann once said, "Tempo is so intimately related to touch and dynamics that it is in a large measure an individual matter. Consult your own feeling for what is musically right in deciding upon the speed of a piece." I was guided by that here. I felt the inferred need to connect the right hand voiced melodic chords by playing legato (no slur marks by Bortkiewicz anywhere in the score, incidentally), and wanted to executive the part for the left hand, which is constantly in motion playing leaps of varying degrees, as accurately as possible. If I were a virtuoso, I might possibly take a different approach.

    Well, I stick with the Tchaikovsky influence as I perceive it here. There is a strong continuous melodic line present in this piece. Frequently, Medtner is terribly stingy with his melodies to the point where they are even seemingly fragmentary at times.

    Ah Gaveau, I had been trying to place your piano when listening to your recordings. Thanks for sharing that! The Baldwin bass is quite different from Steinway's. The Steinway features a thundering bass, while Baldwin offers a seemingly bottomless, profound bass. I don't think one is better than the other, just very different characteristic sounds between the two. Last year I partially rebuilt the piano. The bass strings are not Baldwin SynchroTone strings, but rather Arledge Bass Strings. The hammers are not Baldwin specified Renner hammers, but rather Ronsen Wurzen hammers. Those selections were suggested to me by Del Fandrich, who was Baldwin's chief design engineer for many years and brings the piano closer to its originally intended sound before ill-advised changes were made about 25 years ago to compete with the then newly introduced Yamaha S4, also 6'3".

    David
     
  6. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Great to hear from another one of those earnestly tonal late-Romantic Russian anachronisms. Bortkiewicz starts to sound all the same after a while, but in small doses he's delightful. Thanks for this.
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi schmonz,

    Yes, Late Romanticism is my favorite musical era. I've posted seven of Bortkiewicz's pieces so far on the most recent three or four pages of Audition Room, and find a very high degree of contrast among them all. If you haven't heard the others and wish to listen to them, I believe you'd be both surprised and delighted as to how very different they all sound.
     
  8. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    I'm not sure I agree to that. Medtner's melodies are long-limbed more often than not. They mey be embedded in a lot of details though, so in the hands of a lesser player they may sound less melodious and ingratiating than simpler fare like Bortkiewicz. Medtner can be more contrapuntal and prolix than his fellow romantics, but I'd never call him stingy.

    You can find some pictures of it here: http://server3.pianosociety.com/new/php ... ght=gaveau
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    I followed the link and found where you referenced the photos "below", but could find no hypertext or icon there to click on. Also went to the following page, but nothing there either. Could they have disappeared from the thread? (Might be too that I need to have my glasses checked :lol: )

    You know, there were occasions when Arthur Rubinstein could not get a Steinway for recitals in France in his early career. Rather than taking Playel or Erad, he always preferred Gaveau. I recall reading that in his autobiography, My Early Years.

    David
     
  10. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    The thread is named 'Questions', and you need to scroll down a bit to see the images. Also, you need to be logged in to see attachments.

    Really ! I did not not know that.
    For all its mechanical deficiencies, which I moan about a lot, I am absurdly attached to my Gaveau.
     
  11. musicusblau

    musicusblau Administrator Staff Member Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    This Bortkiewicz is really a quite unknown composer to me, that means I listened to only some few of his works until now.
    Your performance seems to be reflective and expressive in one. May be it could be a bit more passionated. But on the other hand you seem to play deeply and sensitively in the (ripe) style of the good old romantic tradition here. And the sound-quality is really good.
     
  12. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks! Yes, it wasn't my glasses at all, just not seeing the obvious that I was logged out. :roll: Sometimes I'll be logged in, and leave Piano Society, but there is apparently a "time out" feature in the software. So when I returned this time, I assumed I was still logged in, but... not!

    Anyway, that's a fine looking instrument. What is the length of the piano?

    On the mechanical deficiencies, have you had a tech do a full regulation of the action for you? More often than not, that alone can eliminate or at least mitigate most problems. Causes of irritation can be let-offs, key dip, hammer leveling, back check alignment, jack timing, spring tension, and the like--but all fairly easily remedied. Sounds like you've already been there though?

    David
     
  13. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    Mine too, and I too carry a torch for one of its lesser known names. We'll get along famously. :) Let's make a deal, I'll try to hear more in Bortkiewicz if you'll do the same for Medtner.
     
  14. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi schmonz,

    I'm OK with that. :) I have to say, though, that for several years I've desperately wanted to like Medtner's music. Rachmaninoff always thought very highly of Medtner, as you know. One time Medtner was playing one of his Fairy Tales for an informal gathering, and at the conclusion Rachmaninoff exclaimed, "Nobody can tell a story like Nikolai!" Where Rachmaninoff has been my lifelong favorite composer, I suppose I should consider that and look deeper. But... usually Medtner's Late Romantic music strikes me as being... well, more cerebral than from the heart. On the other hand, Rachmaninoff, the middle-period Scriabin, Liapunoff, and Bortkiewicz composed such ravishing pieces with the kind of romantic surge that truly moves and inspires me. For me, Medtner is not alone though. It's the same indifference I have for the late mystical works of Scriabin. As much as I force myself to listen occasionally hoping to see the light, in the end those pieces always leave me cold too. You see the challenge.

    So, you be the guide. Tell me then which Medtner pieces you want me to hear first, and I'll gladly attend to them without delay. Who knows? I might become a convert yet!

    David
     
  15. chopinman0901

    chopinman0901 New Member

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    If you're going to listen to any Medtner, let it be the piano concerti. They're magnificent! I would say that they are only rivaled by those of Rachmaninoff.

    I agree that Medtner might be hard to listen to, but if you really give him a chance, you'll find that he combines intellectuality and romanticism perfectly! His harmonies are quite adventurous, and his music is much more interesting to listen to than most of the late-Romantic Russian composers who, to be honest, start to sound alike after a while. The true Russian masters of the piano (in terms of composition) are definitely Rachmaninoff and Medtner.
     
  16. schmonz

    schmonz Amitai Schleier Piano Society Artist Trusted Member

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    chopinman's suggestion is good (I'm particularly particular to #2 myself), but let's give this a democratic Piano Society twist: I've recorded a few Medtner pieces here. Even before that, though, let me first point you to this recording from last year's International Rachmaninoff Conference:

    http://www.schmonz.com/2007/12/06/medtn ... op-38-no-1

    And a little personal essay from around the same time:

    http://www.schmonz.com/2007/11/14/medtner-music-and-me

    What you hear as "cerebral" I don't discount; the intellectual heft of Medtner's music is a significant part of the draw for me. (Sometimes I tell people Medtner is what a twentieth-century Bach might have sounded like.) Like you, if that were all I heard in his music, it'd leave me impressed yet cold. And that's the crux of the matter, really: what you call "stingy with his melodies" comes across much differently to my ears, where Medtner's overall tendency to restrain himself lends that much more emotional power to the occasions when he lets loose. After listening to him for a while, as your brain gets continuously tickled, you start to hear more significance in small, quiet moments, knowing he hasn't told you everything flat-out from the get-go, because there's so much more to be said and how to even begin? As a repeat listener, you start to sense this depth. And I'm coming to realize, after years and years of listening obsessively to this guy and not being able to kick the habit, that it's precisely this emotional suggestiveness that makes his music get better and better the more you hear it. (The exacting attention to form and substance helps too.)
     
  17. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Andreas,

    Thanks for your comments on my playing of Bortkiewicz. After being introduced to his music I've developed quite an affinity to it and like very much sharing it with others. This long neglected composer needs all the help he can get! If you've heard all of my recording of this music here, you get an idea of this composer's versatility, creativity and craftsmanship. In preparing these pieces (with no performance practices as guides, as they were lost decades ago), I work up each interpretation from scratch by first forming a concept vision, and then play with intent to convey that vision. My overriding concern is always the same: "Would Bortkiewicz likely be pleased with this rendition?" I feel that it's a serious responsibility. This project has been quite a challenge for an amateur pianist, but also very rewarding, as others have taken up some of these pieces as a result.

    David
     
  18. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chopinman,

    Following your recommendation, I went to Amazon and found a CD with all three concerti played by Tozer. I also listened to the excerpts and was duely impressed. (I've not heard these works before.) I'll be ordering the CD shortly.

    David
     
  19. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi schmonz,

    I clicked on your link and listened to the sonata twice. As with Busoni, there is a lot of musical intellect there. The piece provides a fine introduction to Medtner's idiom. At times it's quite Bachian. When I was a kid, I learned minimum Bach to get through annual auditions and have never gone back to it--ever. It was always drudgery for me. But I could also tell that not all of Medtner is contrapuntal polyphony. There is late romantic lyricism present as well, but maybe not as unabashedly lush as some of the other composers of the era. It is a bit more restrained. Yet you were never at a loss for playing beautiful nuances and turns of phrase there. I must say I was most impressed with your artistry--outstanding! I'll listen to your other recordings of Medtner as well tomorrow, as its after midnight now. Thanks for sharing.

    David
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    If anyone wants to comment on Sergei Bortkiewicz here, feel free!

    David
     

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