WORKS: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Suite for Piano No. 2; Suite for Piano No. 3
PERFORMER: Tomás Vísek (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 11 2172-2
Few composers epitomise the restless musical experimentation of the Twenties more convincingly than Erwin Schulhoff. For example, in the five works presented here, there are strong allusions to expressionism, neo-classicism, jazz, Bartókian primitivism and a chromaticism that, in places, is almost reminiscent of Delius. Such a wide conspectus of styles might suggest both a lack of orientation and a somewhat anaemic musical personality. Yet the sheer conviction, energy and freshness of Schulhoff’s invention sweeps away any lingering doubts.
Perhaps the most arresting work of all is the First Piano Sonata. Dedicated to the great German novelist Thomas Mann, it boasts a complex formal plan along the lines of the Liszt B minor Sonata, and it opens with a haunting sequence of clusters which recurs at several key points during the score. In comparison, the other two Sonatas and the more light-hearted Suites appear more diffuse in expression and structure, although certain individual movements exert a powerful, and sometimes disturbing, impact. Given Schulhoff’s well-known credentials as a virtuoso pianist, it is hardly surprising that he makes exceptional technical demands on the performer, but Tomás Vísek rises to the challenge magnificently. In every respect, this is a compelling disc. Erik Levi