Piotr Szewczyk is a Polish-born violinist and composer with a knack for dashing emotional passages, which constitute most of the aptly named Bliss Point: Selected Chamber Works. The album’s very title points at the process of achieving happiness as perhaps a chemical one that relies on certain measurements: like water reaching a boiling point and then quickly moving around it as the surface turns to steam, the ‘bliss point’ is not a prolonged state, it is wildly varying in a scale that, like temperature, is not as linear as it first seems. Instead, the realization of that point jumps to and fro within a field of emotional intensity as convoluted, as vast, as reduced as any person’s inner life is, sometimes bursting with melancholy and longing, sometimes just dependent on a single, traditionally ecstatic melody. These chamber works highlight Szewczyk’s versatile creativity and the sheer playfulness of his expressionism, tied not only with the unique surges of inner storms but also the more collective experience of the beauty (conventionally) built in melody.
The album contains a wealth of pieces whose only instrumental articulation is strings – there are nine compositions in total, from piano trios to pieces with winds, but all of them mostly develop around the expressive range of the string instruments. While said range is often expanded in relation with the rest of the instrumentation, the strings are the focus (five out of the nine pieces are strings only), and they move with a romantic, adventurous dynamism that grants the music an inexplicable force. The compositions themselves avoid the possibility of meditation, at least in the sense of an immersive thoughtfulness that is able to clearly control the mind, and instead demand an active emotional engagement from the listener, even at its most quiet and slow moments. This continual confrontation derives perhaps from seamlessly grand musical gestures that begin at the dissonant and end at the melodic, often going the other way around while passing through strident modernism, minimalism, jazz, waltzes… it’s like listening to Gidon Kremer playing Astor Piazzolla: there’s an immense energy just thundering through even the softest of notes, and they make the body vibrate with emotional response.
There’s no stopping Bliss Point, in a way, just like there’s no fully stopping at precisely boiling point without generating some kind of static condition, and its greatness comes from the dashing eclecticism that the compositions set in motion and which drive the listener along with them into an expressionistic journey in which no compromise is made to either the passivity or the hyperactivity of the conventional, but that does not recede entirely into tradition-crushing modernism either because it seemingly also wants you to have fun. Whether you stand up to dance for the “Twisted Dances” or shed a minimalist tear during the “Images from a Journey”; whether you laugh at the aural image of “Very Angry Birds” (probably not what Messiaen was thinking of) or sit in an awkwardly acute silence by the end of “Bliss Point” itself; or do none of that and simply let the music on while you cook your lunch, you will probably find yourself absorbed into an emotional swirl too difficult to evade. That might be your bliss point, and I assure you that the love of music it inspires is as enjoyable as it is forceful. (David Murrieta)