Polish-born violinist and composer, Piotr Szewczyk www.verynewmusic.com/index.html studied violin with Piotr Milewski, Kurt Sassmannshaus, Dorothy DeLay and Corinne Stillwell and composition with Joel Hoffman, Michael Fiday, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Henry Gwiazda and Darrel Handel.
He holds a Doctor of Music degree from Florida State University, a Bachelor of Music and double Master of Music in violin and composition from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.
Szewczyk has also appeared as guest concertmaster with 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 has performed at the Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Spoleto Festival USA, Colorado Music Festival, Santa Fe New Music as well as many others. He has been a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra first violin section since 2007.
Amongst his awards as a composer, he has received The American Prize, Project Trio Competition, Flute New Music Consortium Competition, Shuffle Concert Competition, American Modern Ensemble, Rapido! Composition Contest, Third Millennium Ensemble. His music was featured on NPR Performance Today, the CBS Early Show and has been performed by Atlanta Chamber Players, Trio Solis, Alias Ensemble, Dover Quartet, Carpe Diem String Quartet, Vega Quartet , Sybarite 5, Juventas Ensemble, New Music Raleigh, New World Symphony and at Eastern Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, Colorado Music Festival, St. Augustine Music Festival, and others.
Piotr Szewczyk has developed the Violin Futura Project www.verynewmusic.com/violin-futura.html , 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 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.
Navona Records http://navonarecords.com has recently released a 2CD recording of these new works all played by Piotr Szewczyk and entitled Violin Futura.
Disc 1 opens with Jason Bahr’s (b.1972) www.jasonbahr.com Ephemeral Rhapsody (2009) to which Piotr Szewczyk brings a fine rich tone in this particularly fine, rather melancholy piece that allows the soloist to weave some fine harmonies and textures. Lawrence Dillon’s (b.1959) www.lawrencedillon.com Mister Blister (2006) contains some brilliantly incisive phrases by quieter, no less incisive moments to which Szewczyk brings a lighter touch.
Carson P. Cooman (b.1982) http://carsoncooman.com has featured in a number of my reviews (see below). His The Doors in the Sky (2007) unfolds, revealing some fine moments before adopting an incisive nature. There are many intricate, challenging bars for the soloist before the opening gentler harmonies are found at the end. Daniel Kellogg’s (b.1976) www.danielkellogg.com Sizzle ((2007) bubbles forth with some virtuosic writing expertly done by this soloist, drawing much from his instrument, always with a sense of urgency.
Mason Bates’ (b.1977) http://www.masonbates.com Blue Berceuse (2007) slowly draws some lovely textures as the work is developed, a lovely miniature with a lovely little pizzicato coda. Kari Henrik Juusela’s (b.1954) www.karijuuselamusic.com Red Bull #3 (2009) brings an astringent, incisive repeated theme that is developed through some terrific passages making this a terrific showcase for the violin.
Nathan Williamson’s (b.1978) http://nathanwilliamson.co.uk Homecoming (2007) slowly weaves some fine double stopped phrases creating some lovely harmonies as it moves through beautifully hushed moments. A tremendous rhythm and energy opens Mark Grey’s (b. 1967) www.markgreymusic.com Left for the Dogs (2007) out of which many ideas grow, this soloist bringing a real nervous tension and some terrific taut playing.
Aaron Einbond’s (b.1976) https://aaroneinbond.wordpress.com Fish Gotta Swim (2006) brings a lovely flow as this fine melody is broadened across the strings with fine harmonies, slowly increasing in animation before a settled coda whilst Marc Mellits’ (b.1966) www.marcmellits.com Żubrówka (2006) leaps up full of life and energy as the music is developed through passages that bring a terrific endless flow of invention to a terrific conclusion.
Suzanne Sorkin’s (b. 1974) www.sju.edu/about-sju/faculty-staff/suzanne-sorkin-phd Toward the Other Shore (2009) has a slow, exquisitely drawn melody that develops over a drone like background. It is finely written for the instrument and is a really lovely work. The music subtly increases in drama and passion before finding its opening calm. It develops in passion again in some virtuosic passages for the soloist before a more gentle flow, but there are more virtuosic moments before the coda.
A quizzical motif introduces Sydney Hodkinson’s (b.1934) www.sydhodkinson.com Rush (2008) before rapidly developing through some fiery passages, spectacularly played here and ending as a sudden note is ‘fired.’ Patrick Castillo’s (b.1979) www.patrickcastillo.com Cirque (2006) opens with a rather elusive theme that is developed through some rather fragmented passages that bring many varying violin techniques, drawing some terrific effects
A repeated motif soon finds a jazz theme in Hiro Morozumi’s (b.1976): Real Phone Key (2007). It is a quite intoxicating piece with this player finding a real swing as he moves through some terrifically wild passages. John Kennedy’s (b.1959) http://johnkennedymusic.com fp (For Piotr) (2007) works through some gentle, high phrases before finding a gentle swaying theme and later becoming more incisive with some fine violinistic effects.
Laurence Sherr’s (b.1953) http://ksuweb.kennesaw.edu/~lsherr Midnight Dance (2009) finds a rhythmic forward movement with a repeated motif that develops in varying rhythms, later becoming more fluid. Piotr Szewczyk (b.1977) provides the final work on the first disc, All Wheel Drive (2004) which has a leisurely theme that develops a bluesy character, speeding to a frenzied coda where the soloist creates some wild sounds.
Disc 2 opens with Richard Belcastro’s (b.1976) www.rbelcastro.com Buyer's Remorse (2009) with a rhythmically sprung theme that darts hesitantly forward before finding a sweet toned flowing variation, high in the violin’s register. The opening returns before the flowing theme now in a lower register. These two ideas contrast against each other before the violin rises high to flow to the coda.
Lisa R. Coons’ (b.1979) www.lisarcoons.com Coming Undone (2009) brings a melancholy, wailing theme before alternating with a hushed long drawn line. There are incisive staccato phrases that alternate with a hushed longer line creating a subtle drawing of emotion. Incisive phrases lead Tyler Capp’s (b.1983) https://tylercapp.net Scatterbrain 2009) into a hushed long line as a theme develops, interrupted by the incisive phrases. This work is vividly played by Piotr Szewczyk as he moves through some virtuosic working out of the material.
Gary Smart’s (b.1943) http://garysmart.net Benediction (2009) brings a rich melody with much of the feel of a traditional melody. It soon speeds through variations that bring much variety to this fine piece. A sprung, incisive motif opens Ng Wah-Hei’s (b.1982) www.facebook.com/cuhkfantasia2014/posts/728994203837475 Caprice (2009) before being developed through some fine passages that bring superb playing from Piotr Szewczyk.
A lovely little motif is gently floated as Ethan Wickman (b.1973) www.ethanwickman.com Respite (2007) opens before being varied through some beautifully conceived passages, finding some lovely harmonies and textures. Jeffrey Harrington’s (b.1955) http://parnasse.com/jh/blog Puce (2006) brings a hesitant rhythmic theme that develops through some incisive passages, exploring the motif through a variety of textures, timbres and rhythms.
Adam Schoenberg’s (b.1980) http://adamschoenberg.com Swoosh (2009) launches with a fast moving theme before dancing forward rhythmically with something of the feel of a jig. The music brings some fine timbres and textures for the violin before a terrific little coda. Lan Chee-Lam (b.1982) www.iscm.org/catalogue/composers/lam-lan-chee-f-hong-kong slowly weaves a theme through a variety of textures and colours as her piece Memories (2009) develops, this soloist drawing some fine moments.
Pizzicato phrases open Jianjun He’s (b.1958) http://www.ju.edu/cfa/music-old/Pages/Jianjun-He.aspx Yang-Ge Dance (2010) before the merry theme dances forward through a variety of finely developed ideas, full of wit and humour. Clifton Callender’s (b.1969) http://cliftoncallender.com gegenschein (2009) opens with lovely harmonies that subtly develop through some firmer passages that still retain many subtle textures, timbres and colours, this soloist revealing all the various nuances.
Rich harmonies open John Oliver (b.1959) http://earsay.com/johnolivermusicTossing and Turning (2009) before developing through drooping phrases and a variety of fast moving ideas drawing much fine, accurate and taut playing from Piotr Szewczyk. A quivering theme emerges in the opening of Jorge Sosa’s (b.1976) www.jorgesosa.com Moto Perpetuo (2009) before working through rapid passages, bringing unusual harmonies and textures with many subtleties picked up here.
Short sharp phrases announce Carl Schimmel’s (b.1975) www.carlschimmel.com Whiffet (2009) before it quickly shoots ahead through hushed quicksilver variations which are exquisitely revealed here. This is an elusive yet wholly captivating piece. Perhaps the most unusual work here is Moritz Eggert’s (b.1967) www.moritzeggert.de Idylle (2006) which is introduced by a spoken text ‘I got up this morning and heard the news.’ In the composer’s words, the violinist reacts to a piece of daily news that he finds extremely annoying. The piece builds up this aggressive potential which is resolved purely musically.
Piotr Szewczyk’s First Coast Groove (2008) has a rhythmic opening with taps on the violin before it moves through a variety of ideas, developing some terrific textures. Midway there is a lovely slower, thoughtful section as the theme is gently ruminated on before speeding to a fast moving coda.
One just has to look at the number of composers listed above to get an idea of how great an achievement this project is. To listen to the wealth of creatively on these two discs brings this home completely.
All these new pieces are well ordered, creating variety. The recording is excellent. There are notes on the project and a link for further information.