NEWS: Mateusz Smoczyński wins Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition

Mateusz Smoczyński. Photo credit Paweł Mazur, Zbigniew Seifert Foundation

Mateusz Smoczyński was the First Prize Winner in the second edition of the two-yearly Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition (also open to cellists), held in Lusławice and Kraków, Poland from 24th to 27th August 2016. Mary James attended the competition. This is her report:

The full list of Prizes awarded was a follows:

Mateusz Smoczyński (Poland) 1st prize
Apel.les Carod Requesens (Spain) 2nd prize (Ex aequo)
Florian Willeitner (Germany) 2nd prize (Ex aequo)
Mario Forte (Algeria) 3rd prize
Dominika Rusinowska(Poland) Audience Prize
Special Awards: Stephan Braun (Germany), Mario Forte, Mateusz Smoczyński

Mateusz Smoczyński (Atom String Quartet and formerly Turtle Island Quartet) opened his semi finals performance with a powerful and bluesy interpretation of Seifert’s Man of the Light. The moving and beautiful melody of a composition by his brother, pianist Jan Smoczyński, provided contrast to the turbulence and passion of the Seifert. The choice of Karol Szymanowski’s Mazurka op.50 no.1 was a good one, its swirling dance rhythms the ideal showcase for this commanding performer.

Apel.les Carod Requesens had impressed the judges in 2014, when he was awarded second prize. His own compositions shimmered darkly. Bowing which sounded like waves on a shore led into an authoritative and slow opening to Seifert’s Quo Vadis, of which he gave an intense rendition.

Florian Willeitner is an intensely lyrical performer who premiered two works, his own piece based on a Seifert composition entitled Thinking about the making of Love in the Garden. A dreamlike atmosphere was apparent after just a few plucked notes and some electronics. The other premier of Willeitner’s was s.d.g., where the attractions of the rhythmic and danceable nature of Irish music were apparent.

Mario Forte stood out for his impassioned and expressive stage presence, his looped pizzicato solo drew on his work with beat-boxers and his highly original witty arrangement in seven of All The Things You Are was renamed All the weird you are.

The jury - Mark Feldman, Joss Grossman and Janusz M. Stefański (the last having played with Seifert for many years) - admitted that it was extremely hard to make a decision. In competitions it is inevitable that there were worthy casualties who did not win prizes or make it to the finals. Virtuoso cellist Stephan Braun from Germany impressed many in the hall with his performance of Blue in Green as a lyrical bossa nova in a duo with pianist Pawel Kaczmarczyk. He gave a stunning display of the percussive possibilities of a cello in Michael Brecker’s Tumbleweed, and his gentle electronic shading on Seiferts’s Turbulent Plover was haunting. He received two Special Awards

A competitor unlucky to be overlooked was another cellist, Krzysztof Lenczowski (Atom String Quartet). His set of two own compositions was elegant and glacial. Unfortunately for such a talented cellist, the circumstances of the competition perhaps demanded greater variety of tone and technique.

L-R: Florian Willeitner, Mateusz Smoczyński , Dominika Rusinowska,
Apel.les Carod Requesens, Mario Forte and Stephan Braun
Photo credit Paweł Mazur, Zbigniew Seifert Foundation

Special mention must also be made of the rhythm section of Pawel Kazmarczyk’s Audiofeeling Trio whose performances in 25 rehearsals and fifteen performances over three days were feats of stamina and generous concentration. The judges paid tribute to the spirit of friendship between all the entrants despite the rigours of the competition, and arguably that is the lasting and unexpected benefit of competitions such as this.

Mary James, who lives in Gloucestershire, is a jazz promoter and artist manager. Twitter @maryleamington

The next Seifert Jazz Violin Competition will be held in 2018. (WEBSITE)

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