Erwin [Ervin]  Schulhoff [Šulhov]

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942)

Nationality: Czech | Jewish | German
Born: June 8, 1894, Prague
Died: August 18, 1942, Wülzburg (age 48)
wikipedia

5 Pieces [5 Stücke] (String Quartet)

(for 2 violins, viola and cello)
I. Alla valse viennese. Allegro
II. Alla Serenata. Allegretto con moto
III. Alle Czeca. Molto Allegro
IV. Alla Tango. Andante
V. Alla Tarantella. Prestissimo con fuoco
Composed: 1923 (age 28-29)
Duration: 13 minutes (approximately)
7 recordings, 26 videos
1:57
Schoenberg Quartet
I. Alla valse viennese. Allegro
2:51
Schoenberg Quartet
II. Alla Serenata. Allegretto con moto
1:40
Schoenberg Quartet
III. Alle Czeca. Molto Allegro
4:20
Schoenberg Quartet
IV. Alla Tango. Andante
2:56
Schoenberg Quartet
V. Alla Tarantella. Prestissimo con fuoco
13:49
Amernet String Quartet
2:21
Nuove Musiche Quartet
I. Alla valse viennese. Allegro
3:52
Nuove Musiche Quartet
II. Alla Serenata. Allegretto con moto
4:56
Nuove Musiche Quartet
IV. Alla Tango. Andante
3:12
Nuove Musiche Quartet
V. Alla Tarantella. Prestissimo con fuoco
1:43
Nuovo Musiche Quartet
III. Alle Czeca. Molto Allegro
1:47
Petersen Quartet
I. Alla valse viennese. Allegro
2:47
Petersen Quartet
II. Alla Serenata. Allegretto con moto
1:34
Petersen Quartet
III. Alle Czeca. Molto Allegro
3:36
Petersen Quartet
IV. Alla Tango. Andante
2:39
Petersen Quartet
V. Alla Tarantella. Prestissimo con fuoco
2:02
Schulhoff Quartet
I. Alla valse viennese. Allegro
3:00
Schulhoff Quartet
II. Alla Serenata. Allegretto con moto
1:49
Schulhoff Quartet
III. Alle Czeca. Molto Allegro
3:53
Schulhoff Quartet
IV. Alla Tango. Andante
2:48
Schulhoff Quartet
V. Alla Tarantella. Prestissimo con fuoco
2:21
St. Petersburg Quartet
I. Alla valse viennese. Allegro
3:31
St. Petersburg Quartet
II. Alla Serenata. Allegretto con moto
1:56
St. Petersburg Quartet
III. Alle Czeca. Molto Allegro
4:31
St. Petersburg Quartet
IV. Alla Tango. Andante
3:04
St. Petersburg Quartet
V. Alla Tarantella. Prestissimo con fuoco

From Kai Christiansen:

Erwin Schulhoff, 1894-1942

Five Pieces for String Quartet, 1923

Erwin SchulhoffFor even the cultivated music lover, Erwin Schulhoff is apt to be an unknown composer. He was born in Prague in 1894 of German-Jewish parents and very early showed an extraordinary talent for music. Upon Dvořák’s recommendation, Schulhoff began studies at the Prague Conservatory at the age of ten. He subsequently studied in Vienna and at the Leipzig Conservatory concentrating on composition and piano. Early musical influences included Strauss and Scriabin, as well as Reger and Debussy, both of whom Schulhoff briefly studied under. World War I interrupted Schulhoff’s budding career sending him to the Western Front with the Austrian Army.

Schulhoff returned from the war with a new political and musical orientation. He turned to the leftist musical avant-garde in Germany and began to incorporate a variety of styles that flourished in a heady mélange between the two wars including Expressionism, Neoclassicism, Dadaism, American Jazz and South American dance. Schulhoff was a brilliant pianist with a prodigious love for American Ragtime as well as a technical facility sufficient for the demanding quarter-tone music of Alois Hába. In the latter, Schulhoff was regarded as a supreme expert. At least one more influence added to this wild mix, particularly after his return to Prague in 1923: the nationalistic and native folk music of Czechoslovakia. All these elements combined into Schulhoff’s unique musical language culminating in the peak of his career in the 1920’s and early 1930’s during which he was widely appreciated as a brilliant musician. His compositional output was substantial including six completed symphonies, three string quartets, a string sextet, a large collection of piano music including five sonatas, concerti, choral music, an opera and miscellaneous incidental and chamber music. Jazz shows a particularly strong influence throughout Schulhoff’s music of all types, more than any other single European composer who is otherwise considered “classical”.

Erwin SchulhoffSchulhoff’s leftist politics eventually lead him to join the communist party and ultimately to establish Soviet citizenship, though he never left Czechoslovakia. He embraced the doctrine of Socialist Realism with its emphasis on clear, populist music for the proletariat and renounced the avant-garde tendencies of his former period. Turning to a distinctly different style, Schulhoff even composed a cantata based on a setting of the Communist Manifesto. His political views brought trouble: some of his music was banned and he was forced to work under a pseudonym. When the German’s invaded Czechoslovakia, Schulhoff was arrested and deported to a concentration camp in Wülzburg, Germany where he died of tuberculosis in 1942 at the age of 48.

The Five Pieces for String Quartet were written in 1923 when Schulhoff returned from Germany to Prague. Dedicated to Darius Milhaud, they inaugurated the most important creative period for Schulhoff that would shortly lead him to compose the bulk of his chamber music including the two numbered string quartets, the string sextet, a violin sonata and a duo for violin and cello. The five pieces comprise a dance suite, a neoclassical glance back to the Baroque era with the spiky dissonances, irony and rhythmic drive characteristic of the modern period. The music is skillfully wrought, accessible and compelling. It provides a perfect synopsis of several aspects of Schulhoff’s multi-faceted music: a sense of parody occasionally bordering on the grotesque (Alla Valse and Alla Serenata), a clear element of Czech folk music (Alla Czeca), a love of modern, popular dance (Alla Tango), and a brilliant facility for rhythmic vitality (Alla Tarantella). Together, the pieces vividly express the words Schulhoff wrote in 1919: “Music should first and foremost produce physical pleasures, yes, even ecstasies. Music is never philosophy, it arises from an ecstatic condition, finding its expression through rhythmical movement”.

© Kai Christiansen. Used by permission. All rights reserved.