Erwin Schulhoff: genres and music crossing borders

Schulhoff box

“Music should primarily bring physical pleasure, even ecstasy, to the listener. It is not philosophy, its origin lies in ecstatic situations and its expression in rhythm”  Erwin Schulhoff wrote in 1919.

From his earliest youth, Schulhoff was fascinated by everything new. His music transcended borders and genres – sometimes even those of ‘good decency’. He was a man of extremes, heartily embracing dada and jazz, and he also had a particular liking for the grotesque. No wonder that the synthesis of jazz and classical music, of everything in fact, became for him not only a challenge, but ultimately his artistic credo.

Schulhoff Lockenhaus

My first acquaintance with the composer and his music was thirty years ago, at the Lockenhaus chamber music festival, led by Gidon Kremer. It was mainly his string sextet, with its strong Janaček influences, that made me gasp for air. Since that day I was hooked. It took a long time, but in the meantime Schulhoff has found his way to the concert stages and recording studios. Especially the latter, because he is still too rarely programmed at concerts.

Schulhoff etersen

My very first record encounter with the composer was the recording of his complete string quartets by the Petersen Quartet, in 1992. To my delight, the string quartets are also in the six-CD box set recently released by the Capriccio label. These are recordings of many of his works (dear Capriccio: there is more!) made by Deutschlandfunk Kultur between 1992 and 2007. Most of these recordings have already appeared on Capriccio (but also on other, often no longer existing labels).

The 2007 recording of the Double Concerto for flute and piano, with Dutch flutist Jacques Zoon as soloist, is new to me. And it is so beautiful! Also new to me is the recording of the Second and Fifth Symphonies, in which the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks is conducted by the greatest advocate of ‘entartete composers’, James Conlon.

Symphonies no. 2 & 5, Piano Concerto op. 34, Concerto Doppio, Concert for string quartet and winds, String quartets no. 1 & 2, String sextet, Sonata for violin solo, Duo for violin and cello, Piano sonatas no. 1 & 3, Piano works
Jacques Zoon (flute); Frank-Immo Zichner, Margarete Babinsky (piano); Petersen Quartet; Leipzicher Streichquartett; Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks conducted by James Conlon; Deutscher Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by Roland Kluttig
Capriccio C7297

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