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Pianist Venessa Perez explores music with a Spanish flavour first outing for the Steinway & Sons label showcase a more centred, straightforward artist. The three dances from Falla’s El sombrero de tres picos are cases in point, while the suite from El Amor brujo also contains memorable features. Notice, for example, the stylish understatement with which Perez shapes the right-hand melody against the left hand’s billowy chords in ‘Canción del fuego fatuo’, along with the crisp repeated notes of ‘Danza del terror’.

However, her quest for clarity and cleanliness in the ‘Danza ritual del fuego’ yields stiff results, especially when you consider Arthur Rubinstein’s far more incisive, swaggering rendition (RCA). The same holds true for Falla’s Fantasía bética, where some of Perez’s erstwhile impulsiveness might have infused the reading with more energy and dynamism. Even the lyrical, introspective central Intermezzo sounds as if it’s parked in neutral when measured alongside Miguel Baselga’s stronger rhythmic definition (BIS).

Rhythm proves Perez’s weak point in Debussy’s two Spanish-tinged selections. While her little expressive nudges in ‘La puerta del vino’ convey attractive tonal allure, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet finds comparable nuance and colour without fussing over the basic habanera pulse (Chandos, 7/07). Likewise, Perez’s amorphous trajectory in ‘La soirée dans Grenade’ pales next to Bavouzet’s shapelier, more meticulously voiced interpretation (1/08). However, Debussy’s Lindaraja and Falla’s Spanish Dance No 2 receive vibrant and characterful performances, buoyed, I suspect, by the presence of second pianist Stephen Buck. The recorded sound is full-bodied and well defined but a little too close-up and dry for music that calls out for a more resonant ambience. Jed Distler

‘Violin Futura’ Solo violin works by Jason Bahr, Mason Bates, Richard Belcastro, Clifton Callender, Tyler Capp, Patrick Castillo, Lan Chee‑Lam, Carson P Cooman, Lisa R Coons, Lawrence Dillon, Moritz Eggert, Aaron Einbond, Mark Grey, Jeffrey Harrington, Jianjun He, Sydney Hodkinson, Kari Henrik Juusela, Daniel Kellogg, John Kennedy, Marc Mellits, Hiro Morozumi, John Oliver, Carl Schimmel, Adam Schoenberg, Laurence Sherr, Gary Smart, Suzanne Sorkin, Jorge Sosa, Piotr Szewczyk, Ng Wah‑Hei, Ethan Wickman and Nathan Williamson Piotr Szewczyk vn Navona F b NV6028 (110’ • DDD)

What an enterprising musician Piotr Szewczyk is. The Polish-born violinist and composer commissioned 33 violin miniatures from an international array of composers between 2006 and 2010,

performed them in recital as part of his ‘Violin Futura’ project and devoted his doctoral treatise at Florida State University to the endeavour. He plays all of the works on this two-disc set.

Trying to assess 33 pieces without making a laundry list is futile and beside the point. As Szewczyk writes in his summary of the project, the works represent ‘eclectic and expressive musical languages of various styles and aesthetics of deeply personal expression’. The results of the violinist’s efforts are most fascinating in the diversity of techniques, moods and colours the composers summon in their pieces, all of which have highly programmatic titles. (All right, just a short list: Mark Grey’s Left for the Dogs, Tyler Capp’s Scatterbrain, Adam Schoenberg’s Swoosh and Suzanna Sorkin’s Toward the Other Shore.)

Szewczyk leaves much to the imagination of the listener, who is encouraged to programme the tracks in any order and even narrow the selections ‘to only specific archetypes’. That may sound like hard work, but the pieces are so concisely crafted and often compelling – and sometimes really fun – that one can only give in and applaud the scope of the project.

And it’s no small matter that Szewczyk is a violinist of exceptional finesse and flair. The composers on these discs could hardly find a more impassioned advocate for their music. Donald Rosenberg


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