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Myroslav SKORYK (b. 1938)
Dytynstvo (Childhood) from the Hutsul Triptych (1965) [4:17]
Diptych (1993)* [10:59]
Caprice No. 19 from ‘24 Paganini Caprices’ (2003)* [3:07]
Violin Concerto No. 7 (2009)* [14:48]
Melody (1981)* [3:55]
Cello Concerto (1983)* [19:12]
Spanish Dance from ‘The Stone Host Suite’ (1973)* [4:09]
Carpathian Concerto for Orchestra (1972) [16:14]
Nazary Pilatyuk (violin); Valery Kazakov (cello)
Odessa Philharmonic Orchestra/Hobart Earle
rec. live, Philharmonic Hall, Odessa, Ukraine, 6-8 November 2013. DDD
*world première recordings
NAXOS 8.573333 [76:42]

In an earlier review of compositions by Myroslav Skoryk (or Skorik) I have noted his facility for writing really memorable tunes often shot through with folk music references. This disc is further evidence of that. As with that previous Toccata issue - music for violin and piano - the specific influence of the folk melodies of the Hutsul people who live in the Carpathians very often dominates these compositions. You can hear this in first piece which is from his Hutsul Triptych which he abstracted from music he wrote for the film Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors that I recently saw again. The music is certainly a vital component of the film though it works wonderfully well away from it too. Dytynstvo (Childhood) is disarmingly enchanting and is the sort of piece you want to hear again immediately.
Diptych is a beautifully written and affecting piece for strings which for the most part is intensely moving. It deserves greater success than it has enjoyed since its completion in 1993. It is a perfect short work for a programme of music for strings and in common with all but two works here is only now receiving its world première recording. The same goes for the enjoyable Caprice No. 19 from ‘24 Paganini Caprices’ which is really a fun piece with more than a whiff of the circus about it. It would be good to see all of the caprices released on disc since very few composers have dealt with them all as Skoryk has.
This short single movement violin concerto is his seventh and is also making its recording debut. There are some wonderful moments in it, some sounding pretty taxing for the soloist. It has a mix of the wistful with the frantic, the restrained with the urgent all of it enticing the listener to explore the other six although to date only the first of them has been recorded.
Skoryk’s Melody for strings, as booklet writer Richard Whitehouse explains, was the piece that “propelled him beyond specialist circles to the forefront of Ukrainian music” a fact that is easy to understand once you’ve heard it. Dripping with pathos and longing it is a heart-rending composition but despite its having been written way back in 1981 and enjoying such success it has still had to wait until now for a recording.
Another world première recording comes next with his cello concerto from 1983. It won him the Shevchenko Prize — Krushchev was a laureate in 1964 for “strengthening culture in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic”. The concerto is a single movement work whose inner beauty shines through. The soloist is active from the opening bars, playing without a break and acting like a sad and lonely voice yearning to free itself from its surroundings. Sometimes the orchestra seems to be sympathetic to the cello’s plight but at others appears to act more as its oppressive captor with brutalising responses to its plaintive pleas.
Spanish Dance from Skoryk’s suite concerning the story of Don Juan is a convincing and attractive piece of Espaniana - if the word doesn’t exist it should.
Skoryk’s Carpathian Concerto for Orchestra has appeared on disc several times making it one of his most successful compositions and showing his flair for integrating folk melodies into an orchestral work that is full of colour. Even the cimbalom makes an appearance emphasising the work’s folk roots.
As an introduction to the music of Myroslav Skoryk this disc is the perfect vehicle with so many varied pieces from the purely orchestral to two works for soloists, both of whom do the works great service. They are played by an orchestra which has come on by leaps and bounds under its Venezuelan-born American conductor Hobart Earle who has done so much to raise its status internationally, so much so that he’s even had a star named after him, something surely unique in the conducting world?
This is a very enjoyable disc and will whet anyone’s appetite to explore Skoryk’s music yet further.
Steve Arloff

Previous review: Rob Barnett