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Fabulous New Music for Violin by Patrick Stoyanovich


Rue Paradis Sophia Stoyanovich, violin. Derek Wang, piano. Aaron Wolff, cello Bridge 9593 Total Time:  67:50 Recording:   ****/**** Performance: ****/****


The music on this new Bridge release is from Patrick Stoyanovich, a composer-pianist based in the Pacific Northwest.  He has studied under Jacob Druckman, Leslie Bassett, and William Bolcom, among others.  The pieces on this new release focus on music primarily for violin which also allows his daughter, Sophia, to shine.  She is a brilliant soloist in her own right and her performances here are lovingly shaped and performed. 

The opening Romance (2010) is a beautiful work of great lyricism.  Its inspiration comes from time the composer spent in New Hampshire at the MacDowell colony and is an homage to the great American composer and his wife.  The rich harmonic writing enhances the gorgeous melodic ideas as the piece opens and moves into some moments of darkness before once again returning to a more Romantic musical expression of love.  For some contrast, a Duo for Violin and Cello (2014) is also included.  It separates two solo sonatas.  The piece, subtitled “Field of Blackbirds”, was composed on the encouragement of Sophia who wanted a work for cello and violin.  The music includes historical and folk references with this title relating to an event in Serbian history.  Things begin in unison here, but soon begin to move outward stretching the bounds of the instruments.  Somewhat reflective moments also provide a pause to consider events.  The second movement moves more into an Americana style and is followed with a dance-like “Giocoso”.  Within this larger musical structure there is also a spiritual element that serves to create an equally serio-religious quality that invites a deeper opportunity for reflection as the two instruments “discuss” these ideas transformed into musical lines.  As with the other pieces here, this too is an intimate and challenging work.  The two voices intertwine and then spread outwards.  The larger challenge comes in needing to match articulation, especially in the unison passages.  This works quite well in the performance here.

The violin sonatas on the album are in a three-movement formal arrangement.  The first is from 2016.  The opening movement is a sort of free-flowing exploration of recurring motives.  Along the way, there are some slight jazz inflections, often heard in the piano’s extended harmonic punctuations within a very impassioned, modern Romantic style.  This meditative approach on motives, transforms into broader symbolism for the central “Adagio.”  Taking a musical line from a larger-scale liturgical work, Stoyanovich shifts to a deeper, semi-religious commentary filled with angst and emotion that invites us ever upward.  The final movement is a shift to more exhilarating writing with witty shifts in meter, and polyrhythmic writing to move things along and bring things to a lighter conclusion.  The jaunty jazz style is still cast within a more extended modern style, but the dramatic flow invites the listener on the journey.  The second sonata, written in 2020, is subtitled “Romantic Warrior”, taken from an album by Chick Corea—though the music is a far cry from that style.  The first movement is set in a semi-sonata form with a burst of energy that evolves into a long, lyrical line for contrast.  It all bubbles along to a propulsive conclusion.  The second movement moves us into that transcendent style alluded to in earlier pieces on the album and makes for fine contrast.  From here we are jolted back into the present with more intense writing and dissonance with a return to hints at a broader struggle.  A more romantic vibe eventually provides some beautiful, lyrical reflection, and feels like a fulfillment of the thoughts in the second movement. Soon, the more intense material returns to propel us forward with references now to a more impassioned version of the lyrical line that becomes more animated. But, the romance returns with a bit of wistful hope to bring it to a gentle conclusion. 

In this collection of chamber music, listeners can explore the personal musical language of Patrick Stoyanovich which can move from more traditional harmonic ideas, to intense contemporary language.  The dramatic shape of the music also manages to draw the listener in when the dissonances begin to increase in the style.  The emotional engagement is enhanced by these often passionate lyrical lines that float about in the violin with accompaniment patterns that continue to push things forward.  The sound here brings the violin a bit forward and allows the piano to not overwhelm the sound picture.  That imaging helps create a great acoustic setting for the pieces here.  The performances are also excellent and certainly demonstrate Sophia Stoyanovich’s virtuosic abilities with pieces that feel well-suited to her style.  These are excellent, and engaging works worth tracking down to explore. 



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