Piotr Szewczyk, solo violin – “Violin Futura” – Navona (2 discs)

Piotr Szewczyk, “Violin Futura”, Thirty-three commissioned works from composers around the world [TrackList follows] – Piotr Szewczyk, solo violin – Navona NV6028 [Distr. by Parma], TT: 101:22, (two CDs) (2/12/16) ***:


Very impressive violin work in a cutting-edge but nearly exhausting collection.


Nearly exhausting is this modern solo violin collection both for the incredible talent of Piotr Szewczyk as well as for the listener. The back story on this two disc program is as follows. In 2005, violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk developed the Violin Futura Project, a collection of commissioned miniatures for solo violin that highlights over thirty international contemporary composers and how they are re-imagining the solo violin. “The purpose of the Violin Futura Project,” says Szewczyk, “is to sample the creative environment of our times by showcasing the wide variety of styles present in the 21st century, and to create a body of new solo violin repertoire.”

Szewczyk is, indeed, a very fine player. Polish-born violinist Piotr Szewczyk has been a member of the Jacksonville Symphony’s first violin section since 2007. Szewczyk has also appeared as guest concertmaster with the Orlando Chamber Soloists and has completed a three-year fellowship at the New World Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas, where he served as rotating concertmaster. He is the winner of FSU Doctoral Concerto Competition, the New World Symphony Concerto Competition, and other awards. As a soloist and chamber musician, he performed at the Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Spoleto Festival USA, Colorado Music Festival, Santa Fe New Music, and others.

The music here covers a wide range of styles and includes composers from all over the globe. I found it interesting that, I believe, only Szewczyk and John Kennedy are actually violinists. All the other composers represented are, by trade, quite the variety including those trained in piano, guitar, sitar and cello. The totality makes trying to “review” the music more than daunting in my mind.
I think the real attraction here is the terrific playing of Piotr Szewczyk. Even though kudos are due to both Szewczyk as well as to Navona for suggesting that the works can be listened to – or played – in any order or by sorting the music according to “particular archetypes.”

In reality, most of the works fall into a sort of a generally ‘modern hyper-technical’ strand, save the strangely attractive and nearly out of place ‘hoe down’ of Real Phone Key by Hiro Morozumi.

I have no quarrel with any of these works. I found myself particularly taken with fp by John Kennedy, Benediction by Gary Smart and Moto Perpetuo by Jorge Sosa. If many of these works favor Szewczyk’s appreciable skills including extended techniques so be it; there is plenty of skill to be savored.

As a listening experience, it does kind of blend together; especially for the non-violinists, such as myself. As mentioned, I think the attention is on the violin playing itself; and it is amazing. It is a bit difficult to listen to the nearly two hours straight through and – for me – there were not enough moments where any one individual miniature work caused me to say, “what is that?”

I think violinists would really like this and may want to seek out some of these works for recital use and, certainly, to get to know the work of Piotr Szewczyk. I had never heard of him nor of most of the composers present. It is always fun to discover new talents such as these.

TrackList:
CD1:
1  Ephemeral Rhapsody Jason Bahr
 2  Mister Blister Lawrence Dillon
 3  The Doors in the Sky Carson P. Cooman
 4  Sizzle Daniel Kellogg
 5  Blue Berceuse Mason Bates
 6  Red Bull #3 Kari Henrik Juusela
 7  Homecoming Nathan Williamson
 8  Left for the Dogs Mark Grey
 9  Fish Gotta Swim Aaron Einbond
 10  Żubrówka Marc Mellits
 11  Toward the Other Shore Suzanne Sorkin
 12  Rush Sydney Hodkinson
 13  Cirque Patrick Castillo
 14  Real Phone Key Hiro Morozumi
 15  fp (For Piotr) John Kennedy
 16  Midnight Dance Laurence Sherr
 17  All Wheel Drive Piotr Szewczyk

CD2:
 1  Buyer’s Remorse Richard Belcastro
 2  Coming Undone Lisa R. Coons
 3  Scatterbrain Tyler Capp
 4  Benediction Gary Smart
 5  Caprice Ng Wah-Hei
 6  Respite Ethan Wickman
 7  Puce Jeffrey Harrington
 8  Swoosh Adam Schoenberg
 9  Memories Lan Chee-Lam
 10  Yang-Ge Dance Jianjun He
 11  gegenschein Clifton Callender
 12  Tossing and Turning John Oliver
 13  Moto Perpetuo Jorge Sosa
 14  Whiffet Carl Schimmel
 15  Idylle (Idyl) Moritz Eggert
 16  First Coast Groove Piotr Szewczyk

—Daniel Coombs

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