Schulhoff: Suite dansante en jazz; Piano Sonata No. 1; Cinq études de jazz; Second Suite; 11 Inventionen; Hot Music

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COMPOSERS: Schulhoff
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Suite dansante en jazz; Piano Sonata No. 1; Cinq études de jazz; Second Suite; 11 Inventionen; Hot Music
PERFORMER: Kathryn Stott (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD-1249

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For the Czech composer Ervín Schulhoff (1894-1942), the discovery of jazz after the end of the First World War came as a revelation. Intoxicated by its dynamism and exoticism, not to mention its sexually provocative aura, he determined to incorporate its dance rhythms into his own style, producing a sequence of enormously attractive jazz-inspired piano cycles, three of which are featured in this recital. Yet, like many composers working in the Twenties, Schulhoff was equally drawn to other fashionable currents of the time. The early 11 Inventions of 1921, for example, incorporate music that is darkly Expressionist and aggressively primitive in tone. By contrast, the Second Suite, completed three years later, provides an elegant study in Ravelian neo-classicism. Bestriding all these different influences is the First Piano Sonata, a strange work whose grotesque outer movements are haunted by a recurring motif utilising violent clusters. Given the immediacy of Schulhoff’s piano writing it’s somewhat surprising that such music has not found greater favour with present-day pianists. Hopefully Kathryn Stott’s persuasive advocacy here will help to bring it to a wider audience. Without doubt she delivers the music with tremendous physical energy and brilliant clarity of fingerwork. Occasionally I found her tone a little too brittle in some of the jazz pieces, but her interpretations offer far greater variety of colour and more defined characterisation than the comparatively anodyne Tomás Vísek on Supraphon. Erik Levi