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Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Concertino for flute, viola and bass (1925) [14:50]
Flute Sonata (1927) [12:21]
Susi, Fox Song for flute and piano [3:24]
Leo SMIT (1900-1943)
Trio for flute, viola and harp (1926) [12:14]
Quintet for flute, harp and string trio (1928) [20:43]
Flute Sonata (1943) [11:53]
Virginie Reibel-Escoffier (flute): David Haroutunian (violin): Florent Bremond (viola); Béatrice Petit (cello): Philippe Noharet (bass): Valeria Kafelnikov (harp): Romain Descharmes (piano)
rec. February and April 2011, Eglise Evangélique Saint-Marcel, Paris
SAPHIR LVC 1128 [75:14]

There are parallels between the lives of Erwin Schulhoff and Leo Smit, though they are not advanced too dogmatically in a release that conjoins their works for flute. Smit, not to be confused with the American pianist of the same name who was so distinguished an interpreter of the music of Copland, was a Dutchman and Schulhoff a Czech. Smit died in Sobibor in 1942, Schulhoff the following year in Wülzburg. Musically speaking there was, at this time in their compositional arcs - arcs that were brutally cut short - somewhat in thrall to the French tradition of wind writing, and gratifyingly so in fact.
 
Schulhoff’s 1925 Concertino is a four-movement affair that roams quite widely, stylistically. The instrumentation is flute, viola and bass and there is, for Schulhoff, some subtly voiced Jewish liturgical influence, though as ever it is part of the fabric of the music and not its determining feature. The second movement Furiant, for example, is explicitly Czech and evokes a village band with its ‘piccolo’ vitality. A contrapuntal slow movement is followed by a Carpathian sounding finale, full of light-hearted energy and dance motifs. His Flute Sonata was written two years later and is lightly rooted in French Impressionistic influence, albeit there’s a bittersweet, proto-Poulenc feel to the beautiful Andante. The Czech vogue for hot dance music is evoked in Susi, a ‘fox song’ for flute and piano. It completes Schulhoff’s contribution to this disc in fine style.
 
Smit’s aesthetic was far more diaphanous than Schulhoff’s. His own Trio for flute, viola and harp is imaginative and fluid and very Debussian, and its three defined sections (in a one-movement work) offer rhapsodic continuity spiced with a light dissonance or two. His 1928 Quintet for flute, harp and string trio is suffused with languor but it also has an effervescent freshness and some distinguished timbral conjunctions that make it a most appealing affair. Its finale is the highpoint, being both ingenious and exciting. The 1943 Flute Sonata was his last completed work but one would not guess the circumstances of its composition, since it retains rhythmic brio and vibrancy and a lyrical invention in the slow movement that is never mordant.
 
With sympathetic and sensitive performances, and a well-judged church acoustic, this disc presents both composers’ works in highly recommendable fashion.
 
Jonathan Woolf