The Arts Fuse’s Jonathan Blumhofer reviews The Colburn School’s Shapeshifter: Music of Erwin Schulhoff recording.
“Shapeshifter, a new album from musicians at the Colburn School and conductor James Conlon, shines a spotlight on, mostly, Schulhoff’s mature chamber music. It is, by and large, a strongly played effort that makes a powerful case for the vitality and worth of this composer’s oeuvre. The highlight is Schulhoff’s Violin Sonata No. 2, a four-movement effort from 1927 that echoes, in more ways than one, ideas reminiscent of Bartók. Yet the piece manages to go, rather resoundingly, in its own way, too. … As played by violinist Adam Millstein and pianist Dominic Cheli, the score sounds both motivically taut and expressively rich. The writing for the instruments is highly virtuosic but broadly idiomatic. It’s also full of bold contrasts: at times airy and fleet, sometimes sober, even a touch jazzy — the finale’s second subject seems to allude to Gershwin. Echoes of jazz also emerge at the end of Schulhoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2, the disc’s biggest single selection. Cheli is, again, an inspired keyboardist, not once daunted by the music’s Szymanowski-esque (or, maybe, Ravel-like) passagework. His playing of, especially, the spare episodes in the central section are beautiful and flexible. … Rounding out the album is a charming account of the foxtrot-number Susi. Though he could be as rigorous a modernist as any, Schulhoff was evidently equally at home in the European popular music idioms of his day.”—Jonathan Blumhofer, The Arts Fuse