I have a tremendous passion for the fashionable dances and there are times when I go dancing night after night with dance hostesses purely out of rhythmic enthusiasm and subconscious sensuality; this gives my creative work a phenomenal impulse, because in my consciousness I am incredibly earthly, even bestial…
Erwin Schulhoff in a letter to Alban Berg (1921).

Schulhoff, born in 1894 in Prague (then part of the Hungarian empire) was born in a German speaking Jewish family. Schulhoff was discovered by Dvorak himself, who recognized the talents. Schulhoff was admitted to the Prague Conservatory (major piano) which he followed from 1902 to 1904. He then continues to study in Vienna, Austria (1904-1908). From 1908 to 1910 he studies with Max Reger at the Leipzig Conservatory followed by a course of study at the Cologne Conservatory (1910-14). In Cologne he studies with Debussy.
Despite Schulhoff's conservatory years and classical training, he feels right-away attracted to modern art and music. As a formidable pianist he quickly gaines a reputation of a champion of Avant-Garde along with classical music. Schulhoff gives performances of the works of Scriabin, Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Hindemith, Bartok, and surprisingly, he shows he masters the quarter-tone piano music of Alois Haba.
Schulhoff (feeling atracted to the Dada movement) even dedicates works (Pittoresken) to George Grosz. Another Dada inspired composition 'In Futurum' contains only one rest, that is marked as with feeling.
Schulhoff was (naturally) also a proponent of Jazz and Rag-Time: he played in several Jazz bars as a pianist.
The rise of the Nazis in Germany, who put him on the list of forbidden music, immediately ended his career in Berlin. The Czech authorities were suspicious of him because of his 'pro-German' views and music: worser yet, Schulhoff was a follower of Communism (he even set the Communist Manifesto to music). In 1939 he became a Soviet citizen.
When the Nazis invade Czechoslovakia, he is arrested by the Security Police and transported to camp Wülzburg, Germany. Here he dies (1942) of tuberculosis according to one source, typhus according to another, and torture according to a third one.

Schülhoff produced a large number of work including two operas (Flammen for example), two ballets, a Jazz oratorio, a piano concerto and two string quartets. After the war, Schulhoff (political) works were mainly used for the propaganda machine of Czechoslovakia. Nowadays his works are slowly getting mainstream and played by ensembles specializing in modern music.

Sierra Chamber Society

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