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Bortkiewicz, Prelude, Op. 40, No. 7 in E

Discussion in 'Submission Room' started by Rachfan, Feb 14, 2011.

  1. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Here I’m presenting the "Prelude", Op. 40, No. 7 in E by Sergei Bortkiewicz from his set entitled Seven Preludes published by Litolff. It was written in 1931 during his so-called second Berlin period. This wonderful Late Romantic work provides a rousing and fitting conclusion to Opus 40 (although I still have more pieces to learn there). This was not an easy piece for me to play. The constant moving chords, the melody and some accompaniment co-habitating within the right hand, the stamina needed, and some large leaps were all challenges. I think I've done my best with it. I hope you'll enjoy this music!

    Bortkiewicz - Prelude, Op. 40 No. 7 (1:51)

    Piano: Baldwin Model L Artist Grand (6’3”)
    Recorder: Korg MR-1000 DSD
    Microphones: A matched stereo pair of Earthworks TC-20 small diaphragm, omnidirectional condenser microphones in A-B configuration

    Comments welcome.
     
  2. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Hello, David,

    I have listened to your rendition of the prelude. You make a good case for this work, though I find that from this set the best are Preludes Nos 2, 4 and 6, which was, incidentally the first piece I heard by this composer and the version was of course yours.

    To my untrained mind you have done this piece justice. I will let others comment on technical aspects.
     
  3. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    This piece is definitely quite different from the others in the set. I think if there is a hint of external influence at play here, it might be Scriabin. I'm glad you enjoyed Nos. 2, 4, and 6 so much. I agree, those selections are Bortkiewicz at his best. Thanks for listening to this No. 7 and commenting.

    David
     
  4. techneut

    techneut Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    That does sound like quite a handful indeed. Well done ! Grand style as usual.
    It sounds to me like he's rather blatantly emulating Scriabin. But then, lots of Russian composers of the time did that.
    It is up on the site. Roll on the CS 8)
     
  5. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for that! Yes, I think playing that "little prelude" is like being in a forest alone and suddenly finding yourself in combat with a bear! I have another "take" that is more cautious, but doesn't have quite the same flair as the one I submitted here.

    Scriabin often had ecstasy in mind in his compositions, and I think that Bortkiewicz captured some of that same spirit in this prelude. It's very exuberant. At times I felt like my hands couldn't play anymore, so... maybe super-exuberant. :lol:

    Thanks for that comment on playing in the grand style! It's a high compliment. When I was an impressionable kid, I used to listen to the older virtuosos of the day who had studied with the great pedagogues. More often than not, they would play in what we called "the grand manner". There is definitely a signature sound to it. When we listen now, it was still evident in the playing of artists like Rubinstein, Arrau and Bolet before they passed on, but we don't find it as much now among the younger pianists. And some probably think it's way too dated. But as an amateur, I always try to produce that sound in my "mind's ear" as best I can replicate it.

    David
     
  6. hyenal

    hyenal New Member Piano Society Artist

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    Yes, the "ecstasy" spirit!! It was the very thing which came to my mind as I listened to your recording. Congratulations on this good job, David!
     
  7. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Hye-Jin,

    Thanks for listening and for your kind words. You probably recall some of my other Op. 40 recordings here. They are all different in their own way, and this No. 7 is very different yet. I still have three pieces to go to complete the set someday. That's the great thing about playing the piano--we're never at a loss for projects!

    David
     
  8. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    Hi David,
    I just got out my score of the Bortkiewicz Preludes to follow along ... only to discover I have the 10 preludes of Op.33. Rats! I got to know this composer by means of one composition (well come to think of it, that's how we all generally meet every composer), that being his Piano Concerto No.1, a favorite of one of my teachers. I also have his 12 New Etudes Op.29, the 10 Etudes Op.15, and the 6 Pensees Lyriques Op.11. I find him to have quite a characteristic voice, in particular, e.g. his use of retardation (heard at 0'20" of your recording), and his added-note harmonies. Anyway, without the score or knowledge of the piece, I'm afraid I will be a dissenting voice today. All I can say is that to me your performance feels "held back." I get the sensation that it is wanting to take off with flight, to have more sweep, to more overtly "gush" with emotion. That is, I feel it should go faster. You rightly state the difficulty of voicing a single-note melody that rides on top of 7-9 chord notes that are being repeated for emotional effect. I think one needs hands of steel to bring this texture off, if only to use one finger (the melody) in a steely manner. I would wish for a greater degree of distinction in the voicing (admittedly very hard to do with this style of composition). I really wish I had the score to this work so that I might be more helpful/detailed. By the way, I think I hear an L saying, "Tune me, tune me."

    Eddy
     
  9. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    Thanks for your comments. On your various points:

    Actually at 020, there is no ritardando indicated there. It is a liberty I took in that spot that I believe was to good effect.

    Concerning the tempo, it is marked appassionato. Given the tradition in Scriabin's music, many interpret that marking as always being a fast tempo, although I disagree, as it's an indicator of character or mood, not speed. To me sometimes passion and fast speed can be antithetical concepts. In practicing this piece, I considered the options and came to the conclusion that there were two avenues open to me. 1) I could play the piece faster and probably make a mess of it; or 2) I could play it at a speed more comfortable to me and assure more accuracy in doing so. I believe I chose the wiser course, leaving a faster performance to a pianist better than I, of which there are plenty right here at PS.

    On the voicing of chords, I believe I did a very respectable job of it in the tenor and lower treble of the piano. What I've found following the rebuilding is that the higher treble seems weaker in volume, making it harder to voice up there during loud passages (the dynamics in this piece range from f to fff). Most voicing of the melodic line running through the tops of chords is done with the 5th finger of the RH. Unfortunately I have tenosynovitis in that finger only (probably due to voicing over the decades). For a period a few years ago I received two cortisone shots into the finger's sheath from a hand specialist, but the reduction in "triggering" was only temporary each time. We discussed surgery which would be a permanent solution, but I haven't felt like having the hand disabled for a month or more, so play with the condition regardless. That plus some normal osteoarthritis (age related) limits how much voicing I can comfortably do particularly in very heavy pieces like this one. Playing with "steel fingers" causes discomfort especially in that finger, so is not an option for me. Ah, to be young again!

    The piano was last tuned on February 18th, so it hasn't been a month yet, plus the Maine winter climate is very harsh and hard on pianos. Tunings here are $130.00. So as a practical and economic matter, I do it quarterly, but I'm unwilling to do it monthly or before every recording. I have to say that at PS and other sites, I've heard pianos far more out of tune than my Baldwin at this moment.

    I do very much regret that my rendition did not please. If you'd like to hear a professional recording more to your liking, I can recommend one. :)

    Again, thanks for your feedback.

    David
     
  10. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Ah, the blessings of the Internet, Eddy! Go on to www.Scorser.com and you will find the whole oeuvre of Bortkiewicz, these included. I have my copy of op 40 I secured by other means, but i do remember coming across this one. Incidentally there is a video on YouTube with someone (not David) playing one of those preludes and lo! It seems the very same photocopy (I recognised a long black line on the bottom) we all share. It seems there is only one copy of the score in existence!
     
  11. felipesarro

    felipesarro New Member

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    hi, David!

    I appreciate your love towards romantic and pos-romantic (but still romantic!) music! hehe
    if I were you, I'd be sick of all romantism after playing so many romantic pieces. but you're always firm in your purposes! :lol:

    nice playing!
     
  12. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Felipe,

    Yes, I think I was born to play the Late Romantics. It's definitely my thing!

    David
     
  13. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Scriabin! That is why I did not like it as much as the other preludes. Scriabin is one of the few Russians who says nothing to me ever. Maybe it is because he is, among the Russians, the only one who was never "Russian" in the sense even Bortkiewicz and Shostakovich are.

    I look forward to David's Interpretation of op 40/1. I have leafed though it and it seems promising, but it neads a pianist to render it justice and who am I?.
     
  14. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    I didn't make myself clear enough. There is a dissonance (non-chord-tone) known as a retardation (not ritardando). It works exactly like a suspension but resolves upwards instead of downwards. B. likes these and uses them a lot.

    Well I certainly won't dispute that you chose the wiser course, but I do think that most passion is accelerated. 8)

    I am very sorry to hear this. Have you considered just bringing everything else down further so as to bring the melody out more relatively?

    If you haven't yet, you should think about getting a tuning hammer and some dampers just so that you can keep the unisons in tune. I am sure that your piano is just like mine (since they both have the same pin block and tuning pins) and I have some strings that have more tendency to get out, but never all three strings of a single note, so you can just keep tweaking the trouble spots and your tunings will go much further. It is hard to deal with fluctuating environments.

    Don't worry, my time will be coming. :wink:
     
  15. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Richard,

    The last time in Russia that the former Soviet Ministry of Culture permitted just a partial reprinting of Bortkiewicz's music was in 1928. (His late romantic idiom did not serve the USSR's philosophy of art in the service of socialism in their view, so he was totally ignored as a composer there following the Bolshevic Revolution.) It was only a very thin volume and evidently sold out quickly. Today it would be quite a collector's item. More recently Boosey & Hawkes has performed a wonderful service in reproducing some of the original Simrock editions including the original front cover art work. These can be found online at http://www.sheetmusicplus.com and perhaps other distributors. But these are the exceptions for now. As a general rule we must still use the original Litolff editions in pdf files from the IMSLP and print them off. Hopefully someday an enterprising publisher will produce a complete edition of Bortkiewicz's piano works. Until then, we'll have to continue squinting at the pdfs.

    David
     
  16. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    David, thank you very much for this link!
     
  17. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Hello David,

    I actually have two of these reprints, his opp 30 and 33 and these I had to order directly from Boosey.

    Bortkiewicz was not popular for other reasons: he was an outspoken critic of the Bolshies and that did not go well with them. Is his idiom, after all, very different from Glier's (Glière) or Glazunov's? The only difference is that those two seemed to accept the régime and to collaborate with it.
     
  18. richard66

    richard66 Richard Willmer Piano Society Artist

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    Thanks for the compliment, Eddy! :D
     
  19. musical-md

    musical-md Active Member

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    D#%^! I did it again. Apologies to David and Richard. :roll:
     
  20. Rachfan

    Rachfan Active Member Piano Society Artist

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    Hi Eddy,

    OK, I get it, the "retardation". Yes, I used a number of those here. I also try to incorporate the Russian concept of intonatzia.

    To voice the higher treble well, and given that the piano's bass is so powerful, I'd have to drop the dynamic down to mf or mp, which I think would also do a disservice to this music. The strategy does work well in the tenor and lower treble though, where I can effect a better balancing of the hands. Otherwise I'd probably sound like Chopin playing everything p or pp. The wire gauge for the Mapes IG wire there is correct, as I double checked the technician as the piano was being restrung and unwound all the wire for him during the restringing. Maybe those higher treble notes can be better voiced by the tuner with lacquer to harden those hammers more.

    Yes, I do have a tuning lever, felts and mutes to take the curse off of the worst unisons and resort to it when I think a few obvious inharmonicities are apparent enough to be bothersome. I think it's all a matter of degree.

    David
     

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