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Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942): Complete Music for Violin and Piano / Bruno Monteiro, violin; Joao Paulo Santos, piano

Album Summary

>Schulhoff, Erwin : Suite for violin & piano, Op 1
>Schulhoff, Erwin : Sonata for violin & piano, Op. 7/1
>Schulhoff, Erwin : Sonata for Violin solo
>Schulhoff, Erwin : Sonata for violin & piano no 2
Performers Composer

Notes & Reviews:

Erwin Schulhoff was a Czech composer of German-Jewish descent. He received his musical education in Cologne, Leipzig and Vienna. Under the Nazis he was captured for his Jewish identity and his music, which the Germans considered "Entartet." Tragically, he died in a concentration camp in 1942. Schulhoff's music started in the late romantic style of Brahms and Reger. Later he was influenced by the newly developed Jazz music, Dadaism and Czech folk music, all three fused into his own personal musical language. This new recording presents his complete output for violin and piano: one violin solo sonata, two sonatas for violin and piano and a suite for violin and piano. This is highly original and dramatic music in which the tension of the "Zeitgeist" is everywhere apparent. Here, this music is performed by Bruno Monteiro and Joao Paolo Santos, who have already successfully recorded the music for violin and piano by Szymanowski for Brilliant Classics.

Fanfare, Colin Clarke
Any disc that furthers the cause of the phenomenal Czech-born composer Erwin Schulhoff (1894?1942) is incredibly welcome. This release on Brilliant Classics presents the complete music for violin and piano presents two Portuguese musicians in a good if not exceptional recording, well presented with copious booklet notes by Ana Carvalho. The four pieces are given in their documentation with their WV numbers: WV 24, 91, 18 and 83 in head-note order. The principal competition is a recent disc on MSR by Esa Gogichashvili and Kae Hosoda-Ayer (reviewed by James North in Fanfare 39:4) and Tanja Becker-Bender and Markus Becker on Hyperion (also Mr. North, Fanfare 34:6). All three discs present exactly the same program. The Brilliant release enters at a lower price point, which may swing it for some; Although not listed as available at archivmusic.com, there was a disc on Gramola of these works from 2013 (David Delgado and Stefan Schmidt, 98982) and a 1994 Supraphon disc with Ivan enat and Josef Hla (112168), the latter of which which adds a piece entitled just Melody. Bruno Monteiro plays with great character (and very true tuning) in the Suite for violin and piano, given usually as op. 1 but on the present release listed as WV18. Monteiros sound is remarkably pure in its higher reaches. The two violin sonatas open out the discography for the assiduous collector (that is, those not limited by what is officially still available) with a 1977 Supraphon recording, presumably LP only (1 11 2149); an early BIS recording by Oleh Krysa and Tatiana Tchekina (679) and on the small label Obligat (Musikproduktion Mnchen) Florian Sonnleitner and Hildegard Stenda (01.222) offer single sonatas. The First Sonata (WV24, more generally known as op. 7) dates from 1913 and is markedly more advanced than the Suite in musical language. As the booklet notes rightly point out, there is a clear Debussy influence in the first movement, contrasted at times with characteristic Schulhoff spikiness; Monteiro and Santos are remarkably adept in moving between the two fields. Monteiros violin sings the cantabile of the slow movement (Ruhig) and, while one might wish for more bass presence from the piano, Santos offers fine support. By far the briefest movement, the Scherzo flickers before the Rondo finale offers up its staccato wit. Written in 1927, four years after Schulhoffs return to Prague, the Sonata for Solo Violin references traditional Czech folk music. Its opening Allegro con fuoco seems also to be cut from the same cloth as Stravinskys Soldiers Tale in its carefree demeanour; Schulhoffs recurring returns to repeated open fifths enhances the outdoorsy feel. It is superbly, and decidedly rustically, played by Monteiro (who even adds a small ornament on one sixteenth note not in the printed score.) The second movement, Andante cantabile, includes such markings as sonoro, con passione and passionato molto, which gives some ideas as to its expressive levels. The final ascent to a pppp harmonic is perfectly managed. The Scherzo is a nicely judged Allegretto grazioso, holding a whole host of delights and is characterfully despatched by Monteiro; the finale, making the clearest references to folk music emerges as an imposing piece. Finally, the Second Violin Sonata, composed in November 1927. The first movement covers a wide territory, the open fifths of the solo sonata return here, bolstered though by dissonance piano chords. The music here is full of surprising twists and turns, expertly negotiated by both players (Santos finger strength is particularly impressive in the later parts of the movement.) There is even a hint of a solo cadenza before the end. The slow movement (Andante) begins with, essentially, muted tolling bells on the piano over which the violin sings a dirge-like lament. The whole movement is basically one long line for the soloist, and Monteiro maintains the tension throughout. A Burlesca takes us to a spikier side of Schulhoff, and there is a raw side to Monteiros G-string that is most appealing. The close of the movement is incredibly imaginative, and perfectly judged here. The finales demands (and there are many, on both players individually and in terms of ensemble) are well handled, the excitement at the close palpable. A fascinating and rewarding issue. It is a cause for celebration that such competition in this repertoire is out there, but there is no doubting the firm belief in this music that exudes from Monteiro and Santos performances.

Fanfare, Jerry Dubins
Here the four works are performed by Bruno Monteiro and Joo Paulo Santos, two outstanding Portuguese musicians Ive encountered before, once in 36:1 on a Centaur recording of Chaussons Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet, and then again in 39:1 on a two-disc Brilliant set of works for violin and piano by Szymanowski. I have the Hyperion CD with Becker-Bender and Becker, and while it is very, very goodBecker-Bender may even have a bit of an edge over Monteiro technically in the extensive double-stopping and tricky bowing in the first movement of the solo sonataMonteiro and Santos dig deeper into Schulhoffs iconoclastic and idiosyncratic musical universe and produce results that are more atmospheric in slow movements and more outr in fast movements, which, I think, is what Schulhoff was aiming for. Much of his music, after all, was intended to shock and upset the status quo of the day. In an A-B comparison between the two recordings, Becker-Bender and Becker come across as more refined, civilized, and urbane, but civility and urbanity are not what Schulhoff is about. Monteiro and Santos project a sense of animalistic primitivism that heightens our awareness of danger and puts us on the alert to the predator about to spring. Simply stated, Monteiro and Santos are riskier and therefore more exciting. In the end, I think its fair to say that Schulhoff is an acquired taste, one which, if you ever acquire it at all, is apt to develop slowly. Monteiro and Santos, however, succeed in making the composers music as palatable as have any other players Ive heard. Their Schulhoff release may thus be recommended as a good place to whet your palate.

Jornal de Letras, Maria Augusta Gonalves
Here, once more, is very clear the artistry of both musicians: virtuoso playing, technical command, the profound knowledge of the works and their time, from the sophisticated writing and its demands. From each piece and interpretation, there are moments that go beyond the simple hearing: the violin line, in the "Gavotte" of the Suite, the freedon of the "Waltzer", the lyrism of the First Sonata, the power of the piano in the Allegro Final, the drama of the 2nd Sonata and the high demands of the Solo Sonata.To this day, not many musicians and labels took the chance of recording the complete music for violin and piano by Schulhoff. There is the Viennese Gramola (David Delgado and Stefan Schmidt), the American MSR (Eka Gogichashvili and Kae Hosoda-Ayer), the UK based Hyperion (Becker-Bender and Markus Becker). Listening to the version of Bruno Monteiro and Joo Paulo Santos, there are no reservations. These artists are the first choise right away amoung the existing versions. They offer outstanding readings where we can hear the richness and power of seduction.

The Rehearsal Studio, Stephen Smoliar
...The Brilliant production team has done well to provide us with this sincerely refreshing account of this particular facet of Schulhoffs repertoire.

The Art Music Lounge, Lynn Ren Bayley
Violinist Monteiro possesses a fine tone and technique Monteiro does not hold back; he attacks this music with relish, fully understanding its idiom and purpose. All in all, a fascinating glimpse of a different side of Schulhoff. In the end, I wasnt so sure how I really felt about this music in toto; yes, it was interesting, but was it substantive enough to warrant repeated listening? Thats a question each listener has to answer for him or herself. I can only tell you my reaction; I cant predict yours; but its certainly music worth hearing at least once.

Classical.net, Brian Wigman
This is a beautiful disc. I'll openly admit that 20thCentury chamber music usually leaves me cold, and isn't my area of study or interest. And the first few seconds of the opening Prludium of the Suite had me worried. This is not easy listening. But this program of Czech composer Erwin Schuhoff's complete music for violin and piano is both generously packed and very convincing. Bruno Monteiro and pianist Joo Paulo Santos have already tackled some adventurous repertoire for Naxos and Brilliant Classics, and this may be their finest achievement on disc.
Since moving to Brilliant Classics, Monteiro's unique tone has been beautifully captured. Joo Paulo Santos isn't a mere background artist, but a deeply sensitive and commitment artistic partner. His piano is also judiciously mixed into the picture, much better here than on some of the pair's earliest releases on smaller labels. And thank God, too. There's a lot of piano writing in both the suite and the sonatas, and none of it is especially simple. But the violin writing is consistently inventive and proves very rewarding.
Although he lived until 1942, these works date from the composer's early years (the Suite is in fact, Op. 1). Nothing here was composed after 1927, and there are influences from all over the musical world. Unlike Dvo?k or even Jan?ek, both so unabashedly Czech in flavor, this music has less of a nationalist feeling, and a more modern one. There are hints of jazz, of a neoclassical approach (Brahms comes fleetingly to mind in places) and most importantly, a highly personal musical voice. An exception to these statements comes in the form of the Sonata for Solo Violin. The music here is distinctively indebted to Schulhoff's great predecessors, and has an biting wit and rustic charm.
The sound is excellent and ideally compliments the performances. These pieces would be an ideal recital item, and I'm a little surprised we don't hear them more often. Thanks to Brilliant Classics for this important addition to both the composer's discography and the library of violin music on disc.

Notes & Reviews:

Recording information: Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal (04/26/2016-04/28/2016).



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Works Details

>Schulhoff, Erwin : Suite for violin & piano, Op 1
  • Performers: Bruno Monteiro (Violin); Joao Santos (Piano)
  • Notes: Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal (04/26/2016-04/28/2016)
  • Running Time: 4 min. 5 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern

>Schulhoff, Erwin : Sonata for violin & piano, Op. 7/1
  • Performers: Bruno Monteiro (Violin); Joao Santos (Piano)
  • Notes: Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal (04/26/2016-04/28/2016)
  • Running Time: 21 min. 14 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1913

>Schulhoff, Erwin : Sonata for Violin solo
  • Performer: Bruno Monteiro (Violin)
  • Notes: Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal (04/26/2016-04/28/2016)
  • Running Time: 13 min. 35 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1927

>Schulhoff, Erwin : Sonata for violin & piano no 2
  • Performers: Bruno Monteiro (Violin); Joao Santos (Piano)
  • Notes: Igreja da Cartuxa, Caxias, Portugal (04/26/2016-04/28/2016)
  • Running Time: 17 min. 53 sec.
  • Period Time: Modern
  • Written: 1927