Limelight Magazine names Shapeshifter: Music of Erwin Schulhoff a February 2023 Editor’s Choice and gives it a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ review!
“All four primary works here date from the 1920s, a period when Schulhoff’s writing was at its peak. Despite the variety of influences, musical interest never flags. The earliest work is the Concerto for Piano and Small Orchestra of 1923 (his second piano concerto), a continuous piece in three sections. Despite its astringent harmony, the piano part occasionally recalls Scriabin, while in the central section Debussy is clearly heard in the orchestral accompaniment. Jazz rhythms eventually make an impact as well.
More integrated are the Five Pieces for String Quartet, each based on a dance form (waltz, tango, tarantella etc.). Schulhoff wrote beautifully for the string quartet: his two numbered quartets of 1925 and 1927 are arguably his masterpieces. The succinct Five Pieces display a typical combination of charm and grit.
The most well-integrated work here is the Second Violin Sonata. Schulhoff’s energetic style is indicated by the titles of the outer movements: Allegro impetuoso, and Allegro risoluto, while in between come a troubled, yearning Andante and a light-footed Burlesca.
The five-movement Suite for Piano, Left Hand is another serious work, notable for its tonally ambiguous, dreamy Improvisazione (fourth movement), and a third movement (Zingara), which is pure Bartók in gypsy dance mode. Finally, as an encore, there is a Gershwinesque solo piano piece from much later (1937), simply called Suzi.
While these works may be found in various other recordings, here they provide the perfect overview of Schulhoff’s mature music. The Piano Concerto is the hardest to find, but this performance outranks its competitors in any case. The recital comes from a project called Recovered Voices, at the Colburn School of the Arts in Los Angeles, set up by the American conductor James Conlon. The work of these musicians is impeccable, particularly pianist Dominic Cheli, violinist Adam Millstein, and of course James Conlon himself. Bravo!”—Philip Scott, Limelight