Music, School of


First Advisor

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.


A DOCTORAL DOCUMENT Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Musical Arts, Major: Music, Under the Supervision of Professor Mark K. Clinton. Lincoln, Nebraska: October, 2016

Copyright 2016 Jeremiah A. Johnson


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

Bortkiewicz’s music.

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