The dissimilarities between these two composers immediately strike
the ear, but the more we listen to their works, the more clearly we
become aware of what they have in common. Indeed, the affinities
between the Czech of German expression
and the irreducibly Czech Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) are strong and
essential. In their music we find the same passionate alternation
of bursts of energy and spells of meditation. Moreover, it is no mere
coincidence that Schulhoff dedicated his Duo for violin and cello ‘To
Maestro Leoš Janáček, as a mark of deep respect’.
Yet Erwin Schulhoff’s music shows many different influences, apart
from that of Janacek. Born in Prague (then part of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire) of Jewish German parentage, this child prodigy, spotted by
Dvořák, studied in his native city, then in Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne,
with also a period in Paris, where he met Debussy – an encounter that
was very important to him. Like other composers of his time, Schulhoff
was obliged give up his art momentarily to serve in the First World War.
Indirectly this resulted in a fresh surge of enthusiasm once he was free
to devote himself again to his vocation: after the War, he was filled
with an insatiable lust for life, and a strong desire to reconcile in his
music originality and tradition, and both Czech and German cultures.