Piotr Szewczyk composer
Bold City Contemporary Ensemble
When approaching his latest chamber album BLISS POINT, Polish-born violinist and composer Piotr Szewczyk turned to a unique lens of inspiration – food science. His interpretation of a “bliss point” in the culinary sense embodies the technique’s saturation of a flavor just before the point of diminished potency. Of course, he trades in the contents of his spice cabinet in favor of diverse instrumental pairings, and in doing so, the composer explores the “saturation limits in the full spectrum of emotions, textures, and characters.” In doing so, Szewczyk is confident that the resulting collection of chamber works “covers the entire expressive range of my vocabulary and artistic sensitivity.”
Naturally, Szewczyk’s violin stylings are included in this spectrum, as he appears on nearly all the album’s compositions. He keeps true to his stated inspirations on BLISS POINT and exemplifies these goals on the title track. Accompanied by clarinet, cello, and piano, the violinist leads the quartet through a set of intertwined sections that starkly differ in their pacing. An ostinato bookend aids in structuring the piece, opening with a gentle pulsation and closing with tranquility after a midsection of contrasting instrumental textures.
Contrasting moods also appear on the album’s first two mixed ensemble pieces. The four short, ever-shifting movements of Twisted Dances are brought alive by oboe, violin, cello, and piano, and the scattered themes of Images from a Journey range from explorations of darkness to a similarly dance-inspired movement based on gypsy performers.
These ensembles are only a sample of Szewczyk’s use of contrast on the album, with a strong example arriving on Piano Trio No. 1’s bricolage of disparate movements. The composer cycles through passages of intense, rhythmic virtuosity; then meditative jazz piano obscured by melancholic tendencies; and lastly, an explosive finale with unbridled energy as its ignition.
His vibrant writing for strings echoes this trend as well, including the viscous, atonal sonorities of a string quartet in the octatonic scale on Half-Diminished Scherzo and the fury of a lively string trio on the appropriately titled Furioso.
These types of musical personification all exhibit the intense imagery of Szewczyk’s compositions. Even without knowing the title of Very Angry Birds, the way the violinist’s extended techniques glide over propulsive piano chords will prompt listeners to point their imaginations skyward. This tendency also holds true for the composer’s dialogue between instruments, such as the furious battle of violin and viola on Conundrum and the marital themes of Nimbus, which tests the polarity of wedding vows with passages full of both joy and bickering.