Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Bortkiewicz - Sonata for Violin and Piano In G Minor Op 26

Sergei Bortkiewicz was born in the town of Karkhov, Ukraine in 1877, and died in Vienna, his adopted home, in 1952. His music is an amalgamation of the compositional styles of Russian and German composers. He was no advocate of the tremendous changes going on in music of the first half of the 20th century, as he continued to compose in the musical traditions he grew up with. His music has been disparagingly compared to Rachmaninoff's as something akin, but inferior. But  Bortkiewicz was no imitator. He developed his own style which showed his imagination as well as a strong lyrical side to his music that sometimes also looked back with nostalgia on a musical world whose style was no longer on the cutting edge of modernity. 

He faced many depravations in his life, and combined with a meticulous method of composing resulted in but 74 opus numbers, with the vast majority of his compositions being for piano solo. He did write 3 piano concertos, a concerto for violin, and one for cello, two symphonies and a symphonic poem, lieder, and a handful of chamber works. 

He wrote 3 works for violin and piano, with the Sonata In G Minor being his only violin sonata. He composed it in Vienna, and premiered it at the Hague with himself on the piano and his countryman Frank Smit on the violin in 1923.  

I. Sostenuto - Allegro dramatico - The sonata begins with wistful music played by the solo piano.  

The violin enters gently, and continues in the same mood with the piano in an extended introduction, until the violin changes to allegro dramatico with a theme that emerges from the introduction. 
The music proceeds in dramatic fashion until it reaches another theme that is marked Un poco meno mosso, which means a little less movement, a slight slowing of the tempo. After this theme, the music becomes more powerful with another section that brings the exposition to an end. The violin tremolos segue to the first theme being developed as the tremolos move to the piano. The third section of the exposition contributes to the music leading back to the first theme and the recapitulation. The coda slowly begins after a climax by the piano, and the music winds down as the piano plays softly as the violin holds a low G, the lowest note of the violin.  

II. Andante - The second movement is in C minor and begins with a short, slow introduction by the piano. When the violin enters, it is accompanied by arpeggiated chords in the piano.

Then there is a section where the right hand in the piano plays a theme while the left hand and violin accompany. The violin and piano trade off playing a lyric theme. The violin builds the tension by playing octaves until a section marked agitato is played. The music slowly becomes quiet, and a solo for the violin appears. this leads to the first theme reappearing in a section that leads to a tempo designation of andante lacrimoso, which means tearful. The music slowly makes sits way to the end of the movement. And as in the ending of the 1st movement, the violin utters the low G while the piano ends the movement. 

III. Allegro vivace e con brio - The final movement is in G major. The piano plays the opening as the violin has a pizzicato accompaniment. 

The movement alternates from 5/4 to 4/4 for a few bars. There are other changes in meter as the music takes on the characteristics of folk music. The drama is pretty much gone as the music dances its way to the ending in G major.
Sergei Bortkiewicz

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