SCHULHOFF: Works for Violin & Piano – MSR Classics

ERWIN SCHULHOFF: Works for Violin & Piano – E.Gogichavili, v./K. Hosoda-Ayer, p. –  MSR Classics ****:

Another Entartete composer of major importance.

Schulhoff (1894-1942) was a Czech composer who ended up a victim of the Nazis, dying in a detention camp in Prague after failing to emigrate in time after receiving his Soviet citizenship. A magnificent pianist and prodigy composer, his first works were assured and brilliant, technically fluent and marvelously structured. Though a late romantic at heart, and reared in that environment, he was astute enough to absorb the influence of jazz, and appreciated Schoenberg as one of the great composers. Embracing the anti-establishment Dada movement early on, he saw no contradictions in the various movements that found respite in his mind.

The violin pieces on this disc make for a sparking presentation, and the music is astoundingly engrossing. The earliest, the Suite, is an engaging and highly literate escapade through the traditional German form that is all the more interesting because of its succession of the last three movements as minuet, waltz, and scherzo. By the time the solo Sonata rolled around sixteen years later, we see what a consummate master he had become of the instrument; every bar is imbued with authority and supremely flawless writing. The two Sonatas likewise share the disparity of time, one early, and the other late. Both, however, are superb examples of the ability of the composer to exercise his craft in a medium that seems almost second nature. All the pieces are well worth repeated hearings.

Georgian violinist Eka Gogichashvili, Associate Professor of Violin at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is lovingly attuned to this music, making it a personal statement of great warmth and commitment. It’s almost a denigrating term to call pianist Kae Hosoda-Ayer an accompanist, so crisp, alert, and essential is her playing. Do acquire this disc—it deserves an honored place in any collection worth its salt.

—Steven Ritter

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