ERWIN SCHULHOFF: Sonata for Flute and Piano; Concertino; SCHOENBERG: Sonata (transcription by Felix Greissle for flute and piano) – Fenwick Smith, flute/ Mark Ludwig, viola/ Edwin Barker, double-bass/ Sally Pinkas and Randall Hodgkinson, pianos – Chandos

by | Jul 23, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

ERWIN SCHULHOFF: Sonata for Flute and Piano; Concertino; SCHOENBERG: Sonata (transcription by Felix Greissle for flute and piano of the Quintet for Winds) – Fenwick Smith, flute/ Mark Ludwig, viola/ Edwin Barker, double-bass/ Sally Pinkas and Randall Hodgkinson, pianos – Chandos CHAN 10515 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) died of tuberculosis in the Wulzburg concentration camp in August of 1942. His compositions were suppressed by the Third Reich as ‘Entartete Musik’ (Degenerate Music) and lost until 1962 when a cache of his works was found in Moscow. His works entered the classical repertoire during the Lockenhaus Festivals of 1986-90. Schulhoff studied with Debussy and Reger, and was one of the links between the transition from romanticism to atonality. His compositions ranged from symphonies (some in the Mahlerian vein), piano ragtime and jazz (he played in ‘hot jazz’ clubs during the German Weimar regime), and chamber works influenced by progressive neoclassical and Dadaistic styles.

The Sonata for Flute and Piano (1927) is a short four movement work structured along classical lines. It’s high spirited, pregnant with quirky harmonic leaps, with a nostalgically beautiful ‘aria’ slow movement. The finale is frenetically joyous. The Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass (1925) is more melodic, with the doublebass adding a mysterious quality to a lyrical first movement. The second movement is whimsically buoyant and the finale really swings. The performers are superb and the recording fills out a large soundstage and is closely miked, adding to the musical impact of the performance.

Forget about the preconceptions you’ve had about Arnold Schoenberg’s music being impossible to like and hard to listen to. When this reviewer was able to let go of his assumption that music needs to be predictable (a defined beginning and ending with a tonal center), the Quintet for Wind Instruments, in Felix Greissle’s composer-approved transcription for flute and piano, became a delightful playful playground of musical discoveries. Endless angular leaps between peaks and valleys fascinates the mind from beginning to end. The use of the flute gives the ears a chance to hang onto the melodic fragments, brief as they are. Energetic phrases are juxtaposed next to quiet moments without any transitions. The Scherzo has a jaunty jovial quality as the flute irreverantly answers the piano, abruptly ending. The languid peaceful slow movement provides a welcome repose, followed by a lighthearted Rondo that ends with an energetic flourish. Kudos to flautist Fenwick Smith (retired from 28 years with the Boston Symphony) whose beautiful tone and succinct rhythms make Schoenberg accessible and exuberant. Chandos’ usual superb sound makes this disc essential for adventurous chamber music lovers.

— Robert Moon

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