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Erwin SCHULHOFF

(*8. 6. 1894 Prague — †18. 8. 1942 Wülzburg)

Czech composer and pianist of German origin

He came from a German-speaking Jewish family. Although his parents were not musical themselves, they fully supported his talent. By a recommendation of Antonín Dvořák he commenced his musical studies at the Prague Conservatory (1904-6) - recognized as a child prodigy Schulhoff was already accepted at the age of 10 to study piano. He continued his studies with Willi Thern at Horák´s Musikinstitut in Vienna (1906-8). From 1908 to 1910 he studied in Leipzig (composition with Max Reger, piano with Robert Teichmüller and theory with Stephan Krehl). In 1910 he made his first one-year concert tour in Germany. He completed his successful studies in Cologne (1911-14) under Fritz Steinbach, Lazzaro Uzielli, Carl Friedberg, Franz Bölsche and Ewald Strasser. In Cologne he also took some lessons from Debussy. He won the Wüllner Prize at the conservatory in 1913. He also won the Mendelssohn Prize twice - in 1913 as a pianist and in 1918 as a composer for his Piano sonata. Compositions of his first creative period are mostly written in the late Romantic expressive style (Joyful Overture,1913). As an excellent pianist he performed the classical repertoire and also the avant-garde music of his time - works of Scryabin, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Hindemith, Bartok and also the quarter-tone piano music of Alois Haba and his pupils. He was considered as a specialist for jazz. The promising start of his career was interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. He spent a full four years as a soldier in the Austrian army on the eastern front. After the war Schulhoff lived in Germany from 1919 to 1923. The war experience marked his vision of the world and the art. He began his way in Dresden. He was attracted by the German left-wing avant-garde. He founded the group "Werkstatt der Zeit" with his friends-artists. He was interested in Expressionism and atonality, he initiated a series of concerts to give a performance to the music of the Second Viennese School. Among his works written under its influence are Zehn Klavierstücke (1919), Fünf Gesänge mit Klavier (1919), 32 Variationen über ein achssliges eigenes Thema for orchestra (32 Variations on an Original Eight-Bar Theme,1919), Musik für Klavier in vier Teilen (1920) or Elf Inventionen (1921). Then he joined the Berlin Dada art movement of painters Grosz and Dix. Under the Dada influence he wrote many jazz-inspired compositions. Key works from this period are Fünf Pittoresken (1919), dedicated to Grosz, a three-movement Symphonia germanica (1919) for voice with an accompaniment of an unnamed instrument or a one-movement Sonata erotica (1919) for female voice, imitating coital sighs and cries, then Ironies for piano (six pieces for four hands,1920), a jazz Suite (1921) for chamber orchestra, a dance grotesque Die Mondsüchtige (The Sleep-walker,1925). He was also influenced by Stravinsky, he used successively or in parallel impressionism, expressionism and neo classicism. Schulhoff´s next creative period started when he returned to Prague in 1923. He was successful composer and an internationally appreciated pianist (particularly in Germany). He became a pianist of the Prague Radio Orchestra, and he composed some works especially for live radio broadcast, as well as studio work involving the making of recordings (e.g. The Second Symphony or Concerto for String Quartet, both 1932). It is in this period he became an interpreter of the Hába´s quarter-tone works and other contemporary piano music. As a composer he worked closely with the Zika quartet. He maintained the style of avant-garde but returned to classical music tradition. He was influenced by czech and slavonic folklore and especially by Janáček. He also worked as a publicist. From his works of this period are notable the String Sextet (1920-24) - the first movement still atonal, other from later period neo-classical, with folk elements, the ballet Ogelala (1922-4), the First String Quartet (1924), the First Symphony (1924-5), the Double Concerto for flute, piano and orchestra (1927) and the Concerto for String Quartet and Wind Orchestra (1930). Various musical styles can be found in the musical tragicomedy (opera) Plameny (Flames, 1927-29). He also wrote some jazz compositions - the jazz oratorio H.M.S. Royal Oaks (1930) for speaker, jazz singer, mixed chorus and jazz orchestra, and the famous Hot Sonate (1930) for altsaxophone and piano. In 1930´s Schulhoff turned ideologically and artistically to the socialism. He was influenced by the beggining of the Nazi regime, which caused the end of his career in Germany (for his Jewish origins) and evoked his war memories. He rejected all his previous work and in 1932 he even set the communist manifesto of Marx and Engels to music, as a cantata Das Manifest for four soloists, double mixed chorus, children´s chorus and wind orchestra. He began writing flat and unimaginative transparent music in the style of socialist realism (Symphonies No. 3-6, 1935-42, No.6 from 1940-1 called Symphony of Freedom). Although he continued as a jazz pianist - 1933-35 in Jaroslav Ježek´s jazz orchestra in the avant-garde Osvobozené Divadlo (Free Theatre), and 1935-39 in Ostrava radio. He became a Soviet citizen in 1939. Following the tragic events (occupation of Czechoslovakia) in 1939 he decided to emigrate to the Soviet Union. He was awaiting his Soviet visa when he was arrested in Prague and deported to the Bavarian concentration camp Wülzburg where he died on August 18th 1942. His Symphonies Nos.7and 8 from prison remained unfinished.

LINKS
www.musica.cz
www.musicabona.com
www.schott-online.com
perso.club-internet.fr


Biblography
J.Bek: Erwin Schulhoff: Leben und Werk (Hamburg, 1994)
J.Bek: "Erwin Schulhoff", Musik in Theresienstadt (Berlin, 1991)


Discography

Orchestral

Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 11
Jan Simon - piano
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Valek

CD Supraphon

Ogelala - Ballettmysterium nach einem antik-mexikanischen Original
Beate Bilandzija - soprano
Staatsphilharmonie Rheinland-Pfalz, Michal Jurowski

CD CPO

Symphonie No. 2
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Gerd Albrecht
CD Orfeo

Symphonies 1-3
Philharmonia Hungarica, George Alexander Albrecht
CD CPO

Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Valek
CD Supraphon

Symphonies Nos. 3 and 5
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Valek
CD Supraphon

Symphonies Nos. 4 and 6
Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra, Vladimir Valek
CD Supraphon

Chamber

2. Suite
Hanny Schmid Wyss - piano
CD Swiss Pan

5 Pitoresken, Partita fur Klavier, 5 Etudes de Jazz, Hot Music (10 Synkopierte Etuden), Suite dansante en jazz pour piano
Tomas Visek - piano
CD Supraphon

Complete String Quartets
Kocian Quartet
CD Supraphon

Concertino for Flute (Piccolo), Viola and Double Bass; Divertissement for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon; Bassnachtigall, 3 Vortragsstucke fur Kontrafagot-Solo; Symphonia germanica; Sonata erotica
Pavel Foltyn - flute, Pavel Perina - viola, Emanuel Kumpera - double bass, Novak Trio, Lubos Fait - double bassoon, Ivan Kusnjer - baritone, Tomas Visek - piano, Diana Stone
CD Supraphon

Die Wolkenpumpe
Petr Matuzsek - baritone
Ludmila Peterkova - E flat carinet, Jaroslav Kubita - bassoon, Ondrej Roskovec - double bassoon, Svatopluk Zaal - trumpet, Petr Holub and Miroslav Kejmar - percussion

CD Supraphon

Esquisses de jazz (1927), Rag-Music (1922)
Peter Toperczer, Jan Vrana, Emil Leichner, Jan Marcol, Milos Mikula - piano
CD Supraphon

Piano Cycles 1919 - 1939
Tomas Visek - piano
CD Supraphon

Piano Sonata No. 3
Jan Simon - piano
CD Panton

Sextet for 2 Violins, 2 Violas and 2 Cellos; Divertimento for String Quartet, Op. 14;
Duo for Violin and Cello

Kocian Quartet, Jan Talich - viola, Evzen Rattay - cello
CD Supraphon

Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 17; Sonata for Flute and Piano; Hot-Sonata (Jazz-Sonata) for Alto Saxophone and Piano
Jiri Barta - cello, Pavel Foltyn - flute, Stepan Koutnik - alto saxophone, Jan Cech, Tomas Visek - piano
CD Supraphon

Sonatas and Suites for Piano
Tomas Visek - piano
CD Supraphon

Sonatas for Violin and Piano No. 1, Op. 7, No. 2; Sonata for Solo Violin; Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 1; Melody for Violin and Piano
Ivan Zenaty - violin, Josef Hala - piano
CD Supraphon

Songs
Olga Cerna - mezzosoprano, Frantisek Kuda - piano, Jan Jouza - violin
CD Supraphon