Mark K. Clinton
Date of this Version
Johnson, Jeremiah. Echoes of the Past: Stylistic and Compositional Influences in the Music of Sergei Bortkiewicz. A Doctoral Document. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2016.
Despite the wide array of his compositional output in the first half of the twentieth
century, the late Romantic composer, Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952), remains relatively
unknown. Bortkiewicz was born and raised near Kharkov, Ukraine, but considered
himself Russian. Bortkiewicz studied in St. Petersburg and Leipzig, lived in Berlin, and
later returned to Kharkov during World War I. During the Russian Revolution, he fled to
Istanbul as a refugee. Eventually, he returned to Berlin and then to Vienna, where he
would remain during World War II and for the rest of his life. Substantial modern-day
recording efforts have rekindled interest in this composer who was faced with difficult
circumstances throughout his life; however, a paucity of scholarly contributions exist.
This project seeks to address some of these shortages.
The first chapter provides historical perspective concerning Kharkov and Ukraine
in the decades prior to the birth of Bortkiewicz. The second chapter presents a biography
of Bortkiewicz against the backdrop of important events in world history. The third
chapter contains commentary regarding Bortkiewicz’s compositional output which
consisted primarily of works for the piano, but also included orchestral works, solo
concerti, one opera, and several collections of songs. Unfortunately, some of these pieces
have been lost as a result of World War II.
The fourth chapter examines the compositional style of Sergei Bortkiewicz.
Despite Bortkiewicz’s pro-Russian sentiments, some of his music appears to contain
Ukrainian folk idioms. Other observations in this chapter supplement the work of Nils
Franke regarding musical retrospection in Bortkiewicz’s works. These additional
examples reaffirm harmonic and textural similarities and other stylistic connections in
Bortkiewicz’s music. Ultimately, these similarities have pedagogical advantages notably
through stylistic comparisons and might affect one’s approach to interpreting