The concerto occupies a central place in the works of leading Belgian composer, pianist and conductor, Robert Groslot. His experience as a renowned soloist informs the instrumental possibilities and playing techniques of his compositions, which are notable for their refined and rich contrast. Conforming to his preference for one-movement structures, the Violin Concerto is laced with scintillating motifs both ethereal and playful as well as complex moods ranging from the dream-like and magical to the dark and violent. The Concerto for Orchestra is a meticulously structured and dazzlingly evocative showpiece.
An exciting discovery, fabulously played and recorded.
The name Robert Groslot was unknown to me but I will certainly keep an eye out for him from now on. He is one of those contemporary composers who is expert in writing for the orchestra, but unlike some of the others his music has a distinctively personal quality. From this showing, Groslot is also an adept conductor.
While his Violin Concerto (2010) is an exciting showpiece for both soloist and orchestra, it is far from superficial. In a single movement, it proceeds through contrasting episodes ranging from mysterious soundscapes (as at the very beginning) and playful passages to strong, dynamic statements, with excitement mounting appropriately towards the end. The violin's highest range in harmonics is often used (recalling the textures of Szymanowski's First Concerto), and at one point I heard a quotation from Debussy's Violin Sonata.
Groslot lets his music progress organically, so despite the contrasting moods it feels inevitable. This also applies to the four-movement Concerto for Orchestra of 2016. The composer is fond of short motifs played staccato (equally true of the Violin Concerto): These motifs quickly take on a life of their own, with the result that his music is highly animated and lively––whether it be in the woodwind phrases at the work's opening, or the snapping brass chords in the final movement, aptly titled "Conclusion". Overlaid rhythmic figures dominate the second movement, "Hoketus", while "Nachtmusik" oozes warmth from the violins playing in thirds, supported by fleeting changes of color in the orchestral tapestry (notably harp and tuned percussion). This is nachtmusik for a hot Mediterranean night rather than a cool Belgian evening. Not one bar of the 38-minute work is without textural or thematic interest: it is the most rousing Concerto for Orchestra since Łutosławski's.
Joanna Kurkowicz rises to all the challenges Groslot sets her in the Violin Concerto, playing with technical security and great élan. The musicians of the Brussels Philharmonic show themselves to be equally virtuosic in both works, relishing this brilliant music. The sound is rich and well balanced.