Schulhoff: Piano Sonata No. 1; Piano Sonata No. 2; Piano Sonata No. 3; Suite for Piano No. 2; Suite for Piano No. 3

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COMPOSERS: Schulhoff
LABELS: Supraphon
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.

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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