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Josef SCHELB (1894 – 1977)
Klaviermusik Nr.2 (1943)
Partita ritmica (1951)a
Fünfzehn kleine Stücke (1954)
Vier Klavierstücke (1962)
Sontraud Speidel (piano); Ruben Meliksetian (piano)a
Recorded: Schloss Gottesaue, Karlsruhe, September 2002
ANTES EDITION BM 31.9188 [75:01]

Schelb led a long and busy life, as a pianist, teacher of piano and composition, and composer. As a composer, he was naturally drawn to his own instrument for which he composed a substantial body of works including, besides the ones recorded here, four piano sonatas, Klaviermusik Nr.1 (1929), Zehn kleine Klavierstücke (1949) as well as several pieces for two pianos.

The four works in this selection span some twenty years of his composing career, thus providing for a fine and fairly comprehensive survey of his musical progress. Klaviermsuik Nr.2, written during World War II when Schelb was playing for German troops in France and Belgium, is still overtly Neo-classical, rather closely indebted to Hindemith, energetic and motoric in the fast movements, lyrical in the beautiful third movement.

The Partita ritmica for two pianos of 1951 is still much in the same vein, albeit with much greater freedom and more refined character, as well as with a more flexible rhythmic vitality redolent of Bartok. Again in four movements, with a substantial Canzona canonica framed by a lively Burletta and the energetic final Tarantella, the whole work opening with a rather impressive Entrata.

The 15 kleine Stücke of 1954, as the somewhat earlier 10 kleine Klavierstücke of 1949 (available on ANTES LC 7985), are avowedly didactic pieces, though of great charm, likely to challenge and reward young players’ efforts. As may be expected, this is a set of short clearly contrasted miniatures, in turn rhythmically alert, lyrical and more sternly contrapuntal, all expertly done, probably not quite easy to play but well worth the effort (I mean, on the player’s part).

The somewhat later Vier Klavierstücke of 1962 are, needless to say, much more serious in intent and technically quite demanding. The idiom, though clearly from the same pen as the other pieces, is more varied and expands into twelve-note writing, although Schelb’s use of dodecaphony is far from dogmatic. On the whole, the music is much more chromatic and rhythmically quite intricate. This is clearly a minor masterpiece.

Schelb’s music was new to me and I am delighted to have been able to review this very fine release. After hearing it, especially in such superb, idiomatic performances, one can not but wonder why on earth music of such quality has been gathering dust on publishers’ shelves for so many years. Time may now be ripe for a proper re-assessment of such finely crafted music that clearly deserves respect. Well worth looking for.

Hubert Culot


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