Video Premiere: Curtis Stewart’s Improvisation on Paganini Caprice #11

Have you ever wondered what would happen if Paganini met trap beats and 8-bit heart emojis? This combo was the quarantine brainchild of violinist Curtis Stewart, and the resulting “Improvisation on Paganini Caprice #11” is one of 17 new tracks on his forthcoming album Of Power, which features music of resistance and resilience.

Of Power includes original songs and re-imagined of works by Charlie Parker, J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, Stevie Wonder, Nicolò Paganini, Childish Gambino, Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson, and more. Scored for solo violin, voice, and electronics, the post-classical album is inspired by the #BlackLivesMatter movement and aims to “tear down the practiced facade of a classical violinist to translate personal hardship, protest, and demands for social justice into sustained action and vigilance for the classical community and beyond.”

Curtis Stewart--Photo by Lelanie Foster

Curtis Stewart–Photo by Lelanie Foster

Here’s what Curtis had to say about “Improvisation on Paganini Caprice #11:”

These are early quarantine compositions with classical music in electronics settings. I try not to back down from the technical and musical challenge of Paganini’s work while still having some fun with this age-old Caprice–hopefully not at the risk of irreverence! Before working through his Caprices in this way, I didn’t think of Paganini as an amazing composer, but just a master magician of the violin. I want the brilliance and beauty of the original text to shine through a new light. Old wine, new digital audio workstation…

Of Power is out June 18, 2021 on Bright Shiny Things, and you can pre-order the album here.

About Curtis Stewart

Grammy nominated violinist Curtis Stewart enjoys an eclectic career bouncing between various realms of music: from sold out shows at Madison Square Garden with Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen, and Seal, to stints at the Kennedy Center with the Jimmy Heath Big Band and performance installations at the Whitney Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, and Museum of Modern Art in NYC. Curtis has performed as a classical soloist at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall, as a special guest soloist/curator with the New York Philharmonic “Bandwagon,” held chamber music residencies at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, National Sawdust, and appearances at the Newport Jazz Festival. His ensembles PUBLIQuartet and The Mighty Third Rail realize a vision to find personal and powerful connections between styles, cultures and musics.

An avid teacher, he teaches Chamber Music and “Cultural Equity and Performance Practice” at the Juilliard School, directed several orchestras and levels of music theory at the Laguardia High School for Music & Art and Performing Arts for ten years, and is currently the Chamber Music and New Juilliard Ensemble Manager at the Juilliard School, in New York City.


I CARE IF YOU LISTEN is an editorially-independent program of the American Composers Forum, funded with generous donor and institutional support. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and may not represent the views of ICIYL or ACF. 

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