Recent years have seen a slow but steady revival of the music of Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877‐1952), Ukrainian composer and pianist, oppressed by the Nazis and Soviets, refugee and survivor of two World Wars, composer of wonderfully rich, appealing and colourful music in the Romantic tradition of Chopin, Liszt and early Scriabin.
This CD contains the 2nd and 3rd Piano Concerto. The 2nd piano concerto is for the left hand, written for pianist Paul Wittgenstein who lost his right arm in WWI. It was Wittgenstein’s favourite concerto of the many works he commissioned (a.o. by Ravel). The 3rd Piano Concerto, written in 1926, is headed “Per aspera ad astra” (through hardship to the stars), which is presented in the gradual unfolding from a dark C minor to a high and luminous C major at the end of the work, including organ and bells, the affirmation of light conquering darkness. Excellent performances by pianist Stefan Doniga and the Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by David Porcelijn. “Stefan Doniga drives the music onward fearlessly and make the best possible case for both works” (Gramophone).