Julius SCHULHOFF (1825-1898)
Sonata in F Minor, Op.37 [17:19]
Caprice sur des Airs Bohémiens, Op.10 [8:46]
Etude in A Minor, Op.13, No.1 [1:01]: No.3 [1:17]: No.8 [1:02]: No.9 [1:48]: No.10 [2:17]: No.12 [1:55]
Impromptu-Polka, Op.33 [3:09]
Chant Du Berger, Op.23, No.1 [3:35]
Galop di Bravura, Op.17 [3:35]
Polonaise in E-flat Major, Op.44 [5:36]
Romance in D-flat Major, Op.49 [3:43]
Mazurka in A-flat Major, Op.9, No.1 [4:27]
Cantabile in G-flat Major, Op.26 [4:19]
Elegie in E-flat Minor, Op.2 No.3 [3:24]
Romanza in A-flat Major, Op.2, No.1 [4:21]
Berceuse in D-flat Major, Op.53 [1:45]
Adrian Ruiz (piano)
rec. c. 1982
GENESIS GCD119 [73:19]
Julius Schulhoff was born in Prague in 1825, studying there and later in Paris where his playing was admired by Chopin, who called him a ‘true artist’. European tours followed, and in 1870 he moved to Dresden, and later to Berlin where he died in 1898. He was the great uncle of Ervin Schulhoff, who today is by far the better known composer.
Yet in his day Julius was widely admired. This disc, originally recorded on LP back in around 1982 - the notes are none too helpful here just giving copyright dates - gives us an opportunity to hear what attracted listeners, fellow composers, performers and publishing houses alike.
It’s a bold move to start with the Op.37 Piano Sonata which, like everything, is undated in the notes. Bold because it’s one of Schulhoff’s very few large-scale works and because whilst in many ways attractive shows him in uneven light. It was dedicated to Liszt, though it remains largely indebted to Chopin in its scampering passagework and ethos. Adeptly structured, it rather lacks personalised distinction for much of the time, its very best moments coming in the restless aria of a slow movement. Here his promotion of melody over supporting harmonies, a quality that so impressed Theodor Leschetitzky, is at its most marked.
Most of the rest of the programme offers musical souvenirs, dance motifs and romantic elegance. All offer persuasive evidence of Schulhoff’s very real command of the contemporary vernacular. He infiltrates some native Czech songs into Caprice sur des Airs Bohémiens, which is full of roulades and witty badinage, very much of its time in its potpourri nature; there’s even a passage that sounds like a protoCountry Gardens. His Etudes Op.13 range from virtuosic to charming, though he doesn’t neglect some pungent left hand accents in the Eighth of the set (only six of the complete set are performed). Schumannesque arpeggios ripple away in the Ninth, whilst the Cantabile in G-flat Major also indicates the same influence. The Impromptu-Polka, Op.33 is a rather military opus, a confident Dual Monarchy pleaser, whereas Chant du Berger also shows real appreciation of an animating Schubertian left hand.
That Schulhoff could be droll as well as quickfire is clear from Galop di Bravura and his Chopinesque lineage is also evident, if at too great a length, in the shape of the Polonaise in E-flat Major. It would be remiss not to note another influence, that of Mendelssohn, in the Romanza in A-flat Major.
The composers cited give an indication of the musical stream in which Schulhoff swam. He was certainly indebted to them but not necessarily derivative of them. When the performances are as approachable, technically powerful and expressively attractive as these by Adrian Ruiz, and so attractively recorded too, then the curious listener will be well rewarded.
Approachable, technically powerful and expressive performances attractively recorded. Curious listeners will be well rewarded.