Well into the first half of the 20th century, Sergei Bortkiewicz remained an unreconstructed Romantic composer, a product of the influences of Franz Liszt, Frédéric Chopin, and Robert Schumann in his youth, and his long career showed little change in this style. Bortkiewicz's solo piano music offers flashes of technical brilliance, and in some ways it is comparable to the early work of his Russian contemporaries, Sergei Rachmaninov and Alexander Scriabin, though its sentimentality often makes it seem derivative of parlor music of the fin de siècle.
Symphony No. 2 "The Bell" is a 1993 ASV recording starring the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Loris Tjeknavorian. Robert Mathew-Walker has written the music notes. One can definitely hear the influences from Stravinsky. The pace is right on the mark and one feels that Tjeknavorian understands Khachaturian's music. A very recording indeed.
France's Naïve label has heavily promoted the career of the young pianist Lise de la Salle, who was 22 when this recording was made. Her fashion-spread good looks fit with Naïve's design concepts, and she has the ability to deliver the spontaneous, unorthodox performances the label favors. How does she fare in a field extremely crowded with Chopin recitals? Her performances certainly aren't derivative of anyone else, and this live recording from the Semperoper in Dresden (you get a one-minute track of just applause at the end) has a good deal of attention-getting flair. The standout feature of de la Salle's performance, in the four ballades at least, is her orientation toward slow tempos, inventively deployed.
Anyone that knows the music of Khachaturian will not be surprised to hear that his music on this CD, conducted by countryman Loris Tjeknavorian and the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra, is full throated and exciting. What is equally excellent is the suite of dances from Tjeknavorian's own music that accompanies the Khachaturian on this disk.