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|Erwin Schulhoff, George Antheil, George Gershwin|
Piano Concertos of the 1920s
"A WELCOME EXHUMATION AMONG THESE CATCHY WORKS INSPIRED BY THE JAZZ AGE: Schulhoff?s Piano Concerto was completed in 1923 after he had been one of the first central European composers to respond to early jazz, which he hea... more »
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"A WELCOME EXHUMATION AMONG THESE CATCHY WORKS INSPIRED BY THE JAZZ AGE: Schulhoff?s Piano Concerto was completed in 1923 after he had been one of the first central European composers to respond to early jazz, which he heard on records owned by the painter George Grosz. Schulhoff was born in Prague but after studying at the Conservatory moved to Germany where his teachers included Reger. However he soon got over that conventional background and even mixed with the dadaists in Berlin. This concerto is a neglected curiosity: Michael Rische claims to have given the first performance outside Prague in 1993. The first movement starts with some luscious romantic left-overs and ends with a menacing march; the second uncannily anticipates some of Messiaen?s personal chords under a beguiling melody; and the Allegro alla jazz finale is syncopated. The episodic layout includes two minutes in gypsy-style for violin and piano alone in the middle of the finale. Antheil wrote his Jazz Symphony for Paul Whiteman in 1925 but it wasn?t ready so the première came in 1927 with WC Handy?s Orchestra and the composer at the piano...Antheil ? far crazier than Schulhoff ? sends up Stravinsky?s ragtime pieces and there?s a lengthy passage where the sage in procession from the first part of The Rite of Spring seems to have wandered into Ives?s Central Park in the Dark. At the end of his kleptomaniac exploits, the most shocking thing Antheil can possibly do is to quote somebody else?s pop song straight ? and end on an interrupted cadence! The Gershwin gets a thoroughly reliable performance" -GRAMOPHONE (April 2004)
More Jazzy Classics from the 20s
M. C. Passarella | Lawrenceville, GA | 03/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is every bit as distinguished an effort as Michael Rische's Piano Concertos of the 1920s, Volume 1. If anything, it is even more of a revelation because of the inclusion of Erwin Schulhoff's Concerto. This is clearly an important work. It starts off with a mysterious, quasi-improvisatory movement that sounds like the world's most high-class movie music, but that's only because in the 1930s and 40s movie music composers would finally catch up with Schulhoff. By the end of the movement we are in a tortured musical dream world, haunted by cascading harps and slashing percussion. The next movement is quieter but equally mysterious, with a long, ruminative cadenza for the pianist. It's only in the last movement that Schulhoff unleashes his version of jazz, and it's a corker, mixing as it does jazz and Gypsy(!) music.
George Antheil's Jazz Symphony isn't in quite the same class, but it's all over in a compact 13 minutes and is predictably wild, beginning with a tango-influenced section that quickly devolves into a crazy jazz episode with wailing brass and xylophone scales. The piano enters with some Petruschka-like utterances before the tuba and banjo take us briefly back to New Orleans. Toward the end, there are the usual obeisances to (or outright plagiarisms from) Stravinsky--Petruschka, Ragtime--before we end with Busby Berkley. This Antheil's a wild and crazy guy, but I like him!
With the Gershwin Concerto, we're in familiar territory, and Rische and Marshall don't really add anything to our understanding or enjoyment of this popular work. On the other hand, if their performance doesn't rival classics such as Wild/Fiedler, they give us a thoroughly attractive reading that catches all the verve and moxie of Gershwin's best orchestral work.
This disc is a great deal of fun with (thanks to Schulhoff) a serious side as well, and I highly recommend it.