Erwin Schulhoff

Austro-Czech composer and pianist Erwin Schulhoff - also known as Ervín Šulhov - was born into a German-Jewish family in Prague on 8 June 1894, and his first musical studies at the Prague Conservatory, when he was aged ten, were encouraged by Dvořák. Later he studied with Debussy, Reger, Fritz Steinbach and Willi Thern.

During World War I he was wounded whilst serving in the Austro-Hungarian army at the Russian Front. After the war, his revolutionary avant-garde music embraced Dadaism and jazz, and he often danced and played ragtime on the piano all night.  His jazzy eight-movement Partita for piano, published in 1925, contained movements with the titles 'all art is useless ...', 'o Alexander, Alexander, you are a salamander ...' and 'joli tambour ... donne moi ta rose ...' (pretty drum, give me your rose), and, anticipating John Cage by over three decades, his 1919 piece for piano In futurum consisted entirely of rests. Another of his works had the title Thirty-two absurd variations upon a no less eccentric theme.

In the 1930s his communist sympathies and Jewish descent began to cause him problems. The Nazis labelled his work as 'degenerate', banned performances by him or of his music in Germany, and when they invaded Czechoslovakia, he had to perform in Prague under a pseudonym. He applied for and was granted Soviet citizenship, but was arrested before he could leave the country. He was deported to the Wülzburg prison near Weißenburg, Bavaria in June 1941, and died there from tuberculosis on 18 August 1942, aged forty-eight.

 

A selection of articles about Erwin Schulhoff

Spotlight. Virtuosic Flair - Gerald Fenech recommends dance music played by Daniel Hope and the Zurich Chamber Orchestra. 'Daniel Hope's fiddle-playing is just phenomenal ...'

Echoes of Oblivion by Robert McCarney - What's in a number?

Ensemble. Fresh and Appealing - Mike Wheeler listens to the Françaix Wind Trio

CD Spotlight. Challenging Music - Erwin Schulhoff's only opera, 'Flammen', reviewed by Gerald Fenech. 'The performance is exhilarating and the recording sumptuous.'

Ensemble. Melody and Mayhem - The English Symphony Orchestra's New Year's Eve offering, heard by Alice McVeigh

CD Spotlight. Persuasive Fluency - Music for flute, played by Samantha Chang, heard by the late Howard Smith. '... captivating performances ...'

Ensemble. Piquant Contrast - Mike Wheeler listens to Schulhoff and Tchaikovsky from members of the Fibonacci Sequence

CD Spotlight. Electrifying Moments - Erwin Schulhoff for violin and piano, strongly recommended by Geoff Pearce. '... this music really suits these two performers like a glove ...'

Ensemble. Woman for all Seasons - Gerald Fenech returns to Festival Maribor in Slovenia

Ensemble. Household Rituals - Contemporary and modern music at Aix-en-Provence, heard by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. Neo-classical Verve - Music by victims of the Nazi death camps, heard by Howard Smith. 'Worth its weight and then some, in Euros.'

CD Spotlight. Truly Dexterous - Music for solo violin and viola, heard by Howard Smith. '... an urbane, ear-catching sound.'

Ensemble. Musical Outlooks - Bill Newman attends a selection of concerts at London's Wigmore Hall

CD Spotlight. Sterling Playing - Wendy Warner's interpretations of Popper and Piatigorsky, heard by Howard Smith. '... sovereign music-making deserving of the highest accolades.'

CD Spotlight. Utterly Absorbing - A sampler from Cedille Records, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... top quality standards.'

Ensemble. Distant Sound - LA Opera's 'Recovered Voices', reviewed by Maria Nockin

Ensemble. Sunshine and Stars - The Australian Festival of Chamber Music 2006 continues, and Malcolm Tattersall sends a second report

Ensemble. Music in Captivity - Malcolm Miller was at a lecture recital by Ronald Senator, with Teresa Gobel and Miriam Brickman

Ensemble. A tropical farewell - Malcolm Tattersall sends a final report from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music

Record box. Deeply affecting - Remembering the Holocaust, by Keith Bramich

Berlin Festival Diary - Five weeks condensed into three, with Bill Newman (continued from last week)