The Bortkiewicz Concerto has been recorded once before, albeit in a heavily cut version. This Hyperion issue is therefore a premiere recording of the complete work. The American pianist Marjorie Mitchell made several out-of-the-way concerto discs with the conductor William Strickland in the late 1950s and early ’60s, those by Carpenter, Field, Delius and Britten among them. Her recording of the Bortkiewicz Concerto was coupled with Busoni’s Indian Fantasy! That Brunswick disc has acquired something of a legendary status among collectors (it is extremely hard to come by) because Bortkiewicz’s Piano Concerto No 1 is one of the great ‘fun’ concertos with its heady bravura writing, lush orchestration, strong, well-wrought and effective material and, in the first movement, one of the most seductive, romantic themes of the whole genre. Hollywood never had it this good—close your eyes and black-and-white films of lost love, heartache and yearning passion are conjured up. If the other two movements are less successful they are only slightly so; the second is a gorgeously tuneful Andante, the Finale a Russian dance. Chronologically, of course, Hollywood has nothing to do with Bortkiewicz and his First Concerto. Dedicated to his wife, the work was premiered in 1912 (and published the following year), after which it was taken up enthusiastically.
from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 1992