Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Double Concerto, for flute, piano and string orchestra with two horns,
WV89, Op.63 (1927) [19:57]
Flute Sonata, WV86, Op.61 (1927) [13:39]
Three Pieces for String Orchestra, WV5, Op.6 (1910) [9:37]
Viktor ULLMANN (1898-1944)
Chamber Symphony, Op.46a arranged from the String Quartet No.3, Op.46
(1943) by Kenneth Woods [13:20]
Vilem TAUSKÝ (1910-2004)
Coventry – Meditation for String Orchestra (1941) [8:14]
Ulrike Anton (flute) and Russell Ryan (piano)
English Chamber Orchestra/David Parry
rec. March 2012, Parish Church, St. Jude-on-the-Hill, Hampstead,
GRAMOLA 98964 [65:25]
The Lost Generation of composers here is Czech. Over the last two
decades the names of Schulhoff and Ullmann have become increasingly
visible and numerous recordings of their music have attested to the
very personal qualities, and very different means, pursued by both.
Decca has been an especially active agent with an extensive series
devoted to such music, but other labels have been busy too.
This Gramola disc begins with a performance of Schulhoff’s Double
Concerto for Flute, Piano and Strings, written in 1927. This revels
in the busy, lissom neo-classical Franco-Czech style also cultivated
by Martinu. It was inspired by the French flautist virtuoso René Le
Roy. When the orchestral badinage thins to flute and piano exchanges
the logic of the distribution between the two instruments becomes
clearer, though it’s true to say that the flute takes the lion’s share.
Schulhoff could also draw on a kind of post-impressionist orchestral
palette, as he does in the Andante, whilst returning to the
clarity of the opening in the finale. This is a richly pointed affair.
The Flute Sonata is a better-known work, one again inspired by the
composer’s friendship with Le Roy, and sharing the same date of composition,
1927. It’s cast in four movements rich in French clarity, with especially
fast tonguing required in the scherzo. The Aria
is quite cool but the finale is exciting. It sits a little oddly in
the otherwise all-orchestral context. We also hear the Three Pieces
for String Orchestra, Op.6, which were written when he was 16;
charming reminiscences of Grieg though lightly spiced so as to avoid
pastiche and a central one a touch more up to date.
Vilem Tauský’s Coventry is the English Lidice though
the notes are wide of the mark in suggesting Delius as an influence:
Vaughan Williams, yes.
Viktor Ullmann is represented by the Chamber Symphony, Op.46a
which is actually an arrangement, by Kenneth Woods, of the String
Quartet No.3. Written in 1943 it’s saturated in rich lyricism and
strong rhythmic drive. Curiously the expansion makes it sound more
late-Tchaikovskian in places than in the Quartet original, and the
waltz figures can sound almost like the Britten of the Bridge Variations.
The expressive crux of the matter is the slow movement, a most beautiful
one, whilst the finale is taut, intense, with a defiant quality turning
ultimately to hopeful belief. String orchestra arrangements, such
as this one, are usually slower than the quartet originals, but interestingly
this one is quicker than the only quartet performance I know, which
is by the Kocian Quartet. The difference is largely in the slow movement
which the Kocian play more intensely and slowly.
This is a very worthwhile addition to the catalogues. The Schulhoff
Double Concerto gets a finely disciplined performance and the Flute
Sonata is well balanced, though others have given it a faster reading.
Ullmann’s Chamber Symphony takes on valid life in its expansion, though
I always remain ambivalent about such reworking. Woods’ workmanship
is not in doubt, however, nor the performance.
There is an extensive booklet in German and English. Included is a
five-page essay on one of the disc’s sponsors, Bank Austria’s shameful
history during the National Socialist Era.
See also review by Rob