Composer: Erwin Schulhoff (b. 1894 - d. 1942)
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Composer: Erwin Schulhoff (b. 1894 - d. 1942)

Performance date: 29/06/2010

Venue: Bantry Library

Composition Year: 1921-1924

Duration: 00:24:36

Recording Engineer: Anton Timoney, RTÉ lyric fm

Instrumentation: S-solo, pf

Instrumentation Category:Sextet

Instrumentation Other: 2vn, va, vc, va, vc

Artists: Anja Lechner - [cello]
Hartmut Rohde - [viola]
Escher Quartet (Adam Barnett-Hart, Wu Jie [violins], Pierre LaPointe [viola], Dane Johansen [cello]) - [quartet]


When he returned from the battlefields of the First World War, the
young Schulhoff realised that he could not go on composing as he had done
before the War. Schulhoff arrived in Dresden early in January 1919, and he soon
became fully involved in the city’s music scene, making new contacts with a
variety of contemporary composers. The Schönberg school held a special appeal
for him at this time, and he promulgated the works of the school in his own
piano recitals – he was particularly fond of Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata Op.1 –
and also found in them a source of inspiration for his own compositions. In
this essentially atonal, expressionist style – parallel to his provocative Dada
pieces – Schulhoff wrote several works between 1919 and 1921, the first
movement of his String Sextet among them. The twelve notes that open this
movement, beginning with intervals of pure fifths which fill out the entire
chromatic scale, are already very close to atonality, and this is also true of
the continuation technique as a whole. The inventiveness and the rigorous
single-mindedness in the sonata structure of this movement are remarkable.

The composer
completed the draft of the first movement but he did not continue this work for
at this juncture Schulhoff’s enthusiasm for the Dada movement clearly gained
the upper hand. Thus he laid the String Sextet aside, and did not take it up
again until April 1924, some six months after he returned to Prague from
Germany. Having resumed work on the Sextet, though, he completed the remaining
three movements without a break, and these bear witness to the new stylistic
direction Schulhoff had chosen to follow. The change in style is particularly
striking in the Burleske, which reveals a neo-classical tendency at first
glance. From this point, Schulhoff’s music oscillated with incredible bravura
between two different styles – Expressionism and Neo-Classicism – which
developed alongside one another in the twenties, and created a lasting
polarisation in the world of modern music. Schulhoff actually abandoned Dadaism
at an earlier stage, but he retained his wit and his gift for shocking
surprises and gentle provocation, as well as his altogether undogmatic view of
all kinds of doctrines.

The rise of the
Nazis in the early thirties caused him to turn actively to Marxism and he
became a Soviet citizen, which saved him when Prague was occupied in 1939.
However, this was a two-edged sword and when Germany invaded the Soviet Union
in 1941 he became a citizen of an enemy state and was interned on 23 June 1941.
He was deported to the concentration camp at Wülzburg in Bavaria, where he died
on 18 August 1942, the same year that Richard Strauss’ Capriccio Sextet was
premiered in the home of von Schirach, Gauleiter of Vienna.