Myroslav Skoryk Violin Concertos 1-4; great music from Ukraine

This is the start of a two-volume traversal of violin concertos by Myroslav Skoryk. Skoryk,  a major figure in Ukrainian music wrote a total of nine concerti.

He was a prominent composer both in the Soviet and post-Soviet eras. Skoryk uses Ukrainian folk elements in his music, but not in obvious ways.

Skoryk wrote his first violin concerto in 1969. To me, it had a post-tonal feel. There are definite key centers that anchor the music.

But Skoryk uses wide leaps, intense chromatic harmonies, and angular, jagged melodic lines to obscure those centers. The end results are works that sound aggressively modern while remaining accessible.

The second concerto premiered 20 years later. Skoryk’s modernist style had softened. Modal harmonies and folk-like motifs appear in this single-movement work, leavening the more modernist traits. The modernist stance of the first concerto is softened, but present. The third concerto of 2001 begins with an extended solo for the violin. Skoryk’s harmonies are even more consonant in this work (although there are some prickly passages).

Skoryk completed his fourth violin concerto in 2003. According to the composer, “the orchestra gives an impression of the ‘fluctuations in the earth’s crust’. It is superimposed on the main theme of the violin which is accompanied by the chords of the orchestra’s ‘earthquake tremors’.” For me, the work conveyed a sense of unease. Beautiful as the melody was, the restlessness of the orchestra gave the work an unsettled feel.

Andrej Bielow turns in a quartet of tremendous performances. Each of Skoryk’s concertos was composed for a different soloist, each with their own strengths. And each one leans into those strengths, pushing the limits of the violin in a different way.

Bielow executes the demands of Skoyrk’s music seemingly with ease. I especially admired his playing in the opening of the third concerto. His phrasing brought order out of seeming chaos, pulling the various melodic fragments together.

Myroslav Skoryk: Violin Concertos, Vol. 1
Andrej Bielow, violin
National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine; Volodymyr Sirenko, conductor
Naxos 8.574088

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