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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

Erwin Schulhoff


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.