Bortkiewicz: Piano Sonata No 2 in C sharp minor, Op 60; Three Mazurkas, Op 64; Jugoslavische Suite, Op 58; Fantasiestücke, Op 61; Lyrica nova, Op 59

Reviewed on Fri 08 Apr, 2016

Bortkiewicz’s inventive imagination captivates throughout and benefits greatly from Nadejda Vlaeva’s ready command of musical phrasing and rock-solid technique that meet Bortkiewicz’s considerable demands head on.

Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) was a self-confessed Romantic melodist, and Hyperion first raised interest in his solo piano and concerto writing with Stephen Coombs as their authoritative guide. Bulgarian-born rising star Nadejda Vlaeva now turns her attention to a selection of his works, many recently rediscovered, from the 1940s. Bortkiewicz’s inventive imagination captivates throughout and benefits greatly from Vlaeva’s ready command of musical phrasing and rock-solid technique that meet Bortkiewicz’s considerable demands head on. The recital builds towards a towering performance of the mighty Second Sonata – by turns impassioned, melancholic and wistfully nocturnal. Other works are equally impressive: for example, the two Preludes for their atmosphere; or the Fantasiestücke and Jugoslavische Suite as sequences of colourful miniature tableaux. Lyrica nova verges on the Scriabinesque. Jouni Somero (FC-Records) recorded all the pieces as part of his nine-CD Bortkiewicz survey, but they are harder to find. Excellent recorded sound and useful introductory notes complete an enthralling release. I urge Hyperion to continue advancing Bortkiewicz’s cause with further recordings. Don’t miss this one!
–Evan Dickerson