MYROSLAV SKORYK: Dytynstvo (Childhood); Diptych; Caprice No. 19; Violin Concerto No. 7; Melody; Cello Concerto; Spanish Dance; Carpathian Concerto for Orch. – Soloists /Odessa Philharmonic Orch./Hobart Earle – Naxos

MYROSLAV SKORYK: Dytynstvo (Childhood); Diptych; Caprice No. 19; Violin Concerto No. 7; Melody; Cello Concerto; Spanish Dance; Carpathian Concerto for Orchestra – Nazary Pilatyuk, violin/Valery Kazakov, cello/Odessa Philharmonic Orch./Hobart Earle – Naxos 8.573333, 76:42 (8/12/14) ***:

My first reaction was mostly, “who?” It is nearly impossible to keep up with the many, many emerging composers across the globe these days. Many young new voices who have studied with some big names we’ve all heard of are out there, especially in the United States and then, there are a whole collection of composers who have actually been around virtually unheard of for many decades now. Such is the case with Myroslav Skoryk, the People’s Artist of Ukraine. Actually, I once again give all due credit to Naxos for making finding these interesting lesser knowns practically their corporate mission.

Skoryk is an interesting voice but, to me, his music really does sound quite a bit like pieces of many other composers from the region and the idiomatic style as heard in bits of Shostakovich, Khatchaturian, Shchedrin, Schnittke et al. This is not a bad thing. However, I did find several of the shorter works in this collection to be a bit nondescript. “Childhood” from the Hutsul Triptych, Caprice No. 19 after the Paganini Twenty-Four Caprices, Melody for strings and the Spanish Dance from The Stone Host Suite are all cleverly constructed and have connections to music or legends from other sources but just did not leave much of an impression. Skoryk’s Diptych for strings, from 1993, is an interesting work with some drive to it that I rather enjoyed.

I spent most of my attention (because it was captivated the most) on what seemed to be the “major” works in this collection. The Violin Concerto No. 7, from 2009, is not just the most recent work here but, I felt, the best. This is a fairly compact work in one movement of just under fifteen minutes. However, it does have a lot of drama and urgency to it with a lovely central section featuring some nice interplay between the soloist and the winds. Soloist Nazary Pilatyuk plays very well, indeed.

The Cello Concerto, written in 1983, earned the composer the Shevchenko Prize and is another single movement work, also fairly economical at just under twenty minutes. The work begins with a mournful, lovely cello melody that is soon interrupted by some attacks in the percussion. The work becomes more violent and angst filled to the end. Throughout the solo cello has many fine, expressive moments, played with passion here by Valery Kazakov.

The Carpathian Concerto for orchestra is billed as somewhat the signature work in this collection. This is not a concerto for orchestra in the sectional showcase sense such as the famous works by Bartok or Kodaly. Rather, this is a showpiece for orchestra that does feature sections of the orchestra throughout a larger texture. The piece does begin in a somewhat unusual way, with quiet, foreboding woodwind writing giving way to some rather  “Hungarian” sounding brass and percussion outbursts. (There are moments of this piece that did remind me a lot of Kodaly.) This is a very interesting work that does hold your interest.

I do think the vaguely “familiar” quality of these works by Myroslav Skoryk is both a strength as well as a liability. The music is of good quality, although I do think that some of these works are more notable than others. I am also not at all sure where Skoryk and his music will land in a retrospective view of the late twentieth century. I do credit Naxos though, as always, for making us aware.

—Daniel Coombs

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