Bortkiewicz Cherubini Composers - Ignored and Almost forgotten! Glazunov Hummel Hunt! Opera/Vocal Rubinstein

Obscure and underdog Composers. Why obscure?

In the case of Johann Nepomuk Hummel (1778 – 1837) there doesn’t appear to be a good reason as to why he has become somewhat obscure. At the time he was composing; his music and compositions were spoken of in the same breath as Beethoven and Mozart. (see Hummel and Hummel Hunt on the right)

BUT … it’s a different story with SERGEI BORTKIEWICZ. He suffered every possible trauma from the Russian Revolution, The First World War … and the Second WW too! Even Nazi persecution! Constantly fleeing this, or losing that. How can a musician function? As he wrote:

“I’m writing to you from my bathroom where we have crawled in because it is small and can be warmed on and off with a gas light (!) The other rooms cannot be used and I cannot touch my piano. This is now! What awaits us further ? Life is becoming more and more unpleasant, merciless. I teach at the Conservatory with the heat at 4 degrees, soon even less! […]”

So here’s the Second (the shortest) Movement to Borkiewicz’ Piano Concerto #1 in B minor Op. 16. The passionate “theme” in this movement is so beautiful it could probably spawn a Popular Hit! (maybe it already has and I just don’t know it)

Hey! – I just listened again … and wonder?! Is there inspiration for George Gershwin here?

Bortkiewicz piano concerto no. 1 second movement


Another one from the list Lance sent me of “obscure / underdog” Composers. Lance says that this is his favourite violin concerto! So it’s gotta’ be worth a listen. WARNING: it’s Long!

Glazunov violin concerto in a minor op-82-moderato-andante-allegro


Anton Rubinstein

Not to be confused with the great pianist Artur Rubinstein, born in 1887, Anton Rubinstein, an even greater performer in his time and a clear rival to Liszt and other great pianists of the 19th century, had a marked effect on the development of music in Russia, establishing the first system of professional musical training at a new Conservatory in St. Petersburg in 1862.

Rubinstein grand sonata for piano 4 hands second movement


ANOTHER “Underdog” Luigi Cherubini (1760-1842) Italian composer who spent most of his working life in France.

Talk about being cheated out of fame and posthumous recognition!!! Just read what was said about him … by “Them” – back then! And then listen to a movement from that vocal piece “They” raved about.

Posterity has a habit of elevating the obscure and neglecting the famous. Thus it is that Cherubini, hailed by Beethoven as ‘the greatest living composer’, is today often forgotten; ‘If I were to write a Requiem, Cherubini’s would be my only model’, Beethoven continued and the work was performed at his funeral in 1827. Schumann’s opinion was that it was ‘without equal in the world’. Berlioz considered that ‘the decrescendo in the Agnus Dei surpasses everything that has ever been written of the kind’.

Cherubini requiem-no-1-in-c-minor-agnus-dei

  • Kert
    August 21, 2011 at 9:03 pm

    Slam dunkin like Shaquille O’Neal, if he wrote ionframitve articles.

  • Jim's Classical Music » San Francisco Classical Voice
    April 19, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    […] For my take on underrated composers see […]

  • Taneyev
    December 2, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    IMHO, Cherubini six SQ are some of the most original romantic pieces of the 19th.century, and the pith of all Italian chamber music of his time. The recording of them by the Melos SQ is definitive, and one of the greatest of SQ I ever heard. The string quintet is also a lovely piece, but very hard to find.

  • Ron
    June 17, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Jean-Féry Rebel (1666-1747)

    He impressed Louis XIV with his violin playing at a very young age. He has only one opera that was a failure.

    His character piece “Les Caractères de la Danse” was admired and premiered by Handel himself in London.

    His name is kept alive by his last work “Les Elémens” (the elements) which was written in 1737 which by then he was already 71. The 1st movement, the 1st ever tone poem was not played during the Premiere of the piece.

    He is still relatively obscure despite the interest of Period-Instrument Orchestras.

    There’s at present 6 recordings of his “Les Elémens”

    …. here’s one by Reinhard Goëbel and Musica Antiqua Köln –

    and another by the smaller group The Palladian Ensemble –

    Enjoy relistening !!! 🙂

  • Jim
    April 16, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Thanks Doug. I heard inspiration for Gershwin. You heard more clearly! Rachmaninoff and Gershwin “blended”

  • Doug
    April 16, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Bortkiewicz’s 2nd movement makes me think of a perfect blend of Rachmaninov and Gershwin.

    Excellent site, BTW.

  • Jim
    November 7, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks Frank – the T is back in Bortkiewicz

  • Frank Strauss
    November 2, 2008 at 3:57 am

    Hello again Jim-one more comment before I hit the rack. You confused me by dropping the “T” from Bortkiewicz. Some years ago I discovered a pianist by the name of Ervin Nyíregyházi. (Look him up in Wikipedia) He lived a most fascinating life, and one of the few recordings that he made was an LP that included a piece by Bortkiewicz, entitled simply “Nyíregyházi.” I still have the LP-found it in a remainder bin about 25 years ago for $1 US. It is available on Amazon. I may convert it to digital.