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SCHULHOFF, Erwin (1894-1942)

PIANO WORKS • 3

SUITE DANSANTE EN JAZZ • 9 KLEINE REIGEN, OP. 13 • OSTINATO • 5 ÉTUDES DE JAZZ • ZEZ CONFREY: KITTEN ON THE KEYS


  • Caroline Weichert, piano

Spanning almost two decades of Schulhoff’s output, this programme includes the rarely heard Neun kleine Reigen, one of the composer’s earliest works to exhibit the influence of both jazz and light music, as well as Suite dansante en jazz, one of the last of his works to be overtly indebted to jazz idioms. The six intimate and humorous portraits of everyday life with a child which make up Ostinato show the influence of Expressionism and Dada. The album concludes with Zez Confrey’s ragtime Kitten on the Keys to which Schulhoff pays his own tribute in the last movement of Cinq Études de Jazz.

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Tracklist

Schulhoff, Erwin
 
Suite dansante en jazz (1931) (00:14:07 )
1
I. Stomp (00:01:01)
2
II. Strait (00:03:22)
3
III. Waltz (00:04:23)
4
IV. Tango (00:02:33)
5
V. Slow (00:03:43)
6
VI. Fox-trot (00:01:58)
 
9 kleine Reigen, Op. 13 (1913) (00:15:34 )
7
No. 1. Leicht bewegt (00:01:47)
8
No. 2. Massig bewegt (00:01:24)
9
No. 3. Schnell (00:00:38)
10
No. 4. Feurig, aber sehr rhythmisch (00:00:50)
11
No. 5. Walzertempo, ausserst kokett vorzutragen (00:03:01)
12
No. 6. Ruhig fliessend (00:02:36)
13
No. 7. Ruhiges Walzertempo (00:01:59)
14
No. 8. Leicht bewegt (00:01:20)
15
No. 9. Ruhiges Walzertempo (00:02:15)
 
Ostinato (1925) (00:07:00 )
16
I. Papa (00:01:32)
17
II. Mama (00:01:37)
18
III. da....da (00:01:07)
19
IV. hopp....hopp (00:00:48)
20
V. a....a (00:01:06)
21
VI. trara (00:01:06)
 
5 Études de jazz (1926) (00:12:00 )
22
No. 1. Charleston (00:01:29)
23
No. 2. Blues (00:03:20)
24
No. 3. Chanson (00:03:35)
25
No. 4. Tango (00:01:56)
26
No. 5. Toccata sur le shimmy 'Kitten on the keys' de Zez Confrey (00:02:56)
Confrey, Zez
27
Kitten on the Keys (1921) (00:03:51)
Total Time: 00:57:13

The Artist

Caroline Weichert was a pupil of Renate Kretschmar-Fischer at the Musikhochschule in Detmold, and also studied with Conrad Hansen, Vitaly Margulis and Yvonne Lefébure. A prizewinner at the Busoni, German Chopin and Schubert competitions, she has appeared regularly as a soloist with orchestras such as the Baden-Baden Philharmonie, Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie and the Telekom-orchester. She received a Discobole award from the Académie du Disque Français for her recording début featuring works by Shostakovich. Weichert’s first recording for Grand Piano, Schulhoff’s Piano Works Volume 1, received wide critical acclaim, including the prestigious Choc de Classica and Pianiste magazine’s Maestro awards.

The Composer

Edward Elzear “Zez” Confrey was a musical phenomenon. Precocious, immensely talented, with an absolutely natural ability at the keyboard, he became a major celebrity after publishing in 1921 his evocative and rhythmically intricate masterpiece, Kitten on the Keys. Two years later his recordings were available on both the Brunswick and Victor Records labels, as well as on many piano rolls.

Confrey was born on 3 April 1895, in Peru, Illinois. He was the youngest of five children. His eldest brother, Jim, played seven different musical instruments, including the piano. At four, Zez showed enormous ability when he picked out on the piano the same piece his eldest brother was studying. His parents recognised the budding talent and soon engaged a teacher to nurture Zez’s musical gifts. He played in and conducted his own orchestra while attending high school. After graduation, he continued his musical education at the famous Chicago Musical College (which was run by the inimitable Florenz Ziegfeld, Sr.), where his teachers included Jesse Dunn and Frank Denhart. He was immersed in music from the Classics with the likes of Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, to the contemporary music of the French Impressionists, Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel—music that was considered cutting edge and controversial in the early seventeenth century. During those heady years, Zez was making a living by playing the piano. In 1915 he formed an orchestra with his brother Jim and their group performed in many of the most important hotels and ballrooms. The recordings Zez made with this orchestra became dance music hits for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

During World War I, Confrey joined the Navy and performed in a touring musical revue entitled, Leave It to Sailors. After the war, he was engaged to record novelty piano works and arrangements for the QRS Piano Roll Company, recording 127 rolls between 1918 and 1924. From 1924 until 1927 he recorded another 44 piano rolls, this time, exclusively for the Ampico Corporation. The piano rolls led to recording engagements for the new Chicago company, Brunswick, Edison and Emerson.

In 1921 Jack Mills (the founder of what today is known as Belwin Mills Publishing Corporation) offered Confrey a publishing contract. The agreement saw the publication of Kitten on the Keys, My Pet, Poor Buttermilk, Stumbling, Coaxing the Piano, Dumbell, Dizzy Fingers, and many other piano pieces. In 1923 Confrey authored, what was to be a phenomenally successful book entitled Zez Confrey’s Modern Course in Novelty Piano Playing, which remained in print forover forty years.

Confrey turned more and more to composing for jazz bands after the 1920s. The 1930s and 1940s were the era of the Big Band and Confrey made a lasting contribution to both small and large ensembles. He retired from active composing after World War II, although he sporadically continued to write music through 1959. He suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died on 22 November 1971 in Lakewood, New Jersey. The legacy he left encompasses over one hundred piano works, miniature operas, popular songs, mood pieces, and children’s music.

Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague on 8 June 1894 and showed musical ability from an early age. A musical career was decided upon on the recommendation of no less than Antonín Dvořák, and Schulhoff studied at the Prague Conservatory from 1904, followed by piano tuition in Vienna from 1906 then composition in Leipzig with Max Reger from 1908 and subsequently in Cologne with Fritz Steinbach from 1911. In the meantime he had laid the basis of a career as a pianist, while his efforts at composing were rewarded with the Mendelssohn Prize in 1918 for a piano sonata. His music up to the First World War had shown the expected influences from Brahms and Dvořák, and by way of Strauss, to Debussy and Scriabin, but four years in the Austrian army saw him adopt a more radical stance artistically and politically. In the next few years he absorbed the values of the Expressionism represented by Schoenberg and the Second Viennese School as well as the Dadaism espoused by Georg Grosz, whose advocacy of jazz was to find its way into much of Schulhoff’s music from that period.

Reviews

“I must say that Weichert gives every piece that Stott herself recorded even more of a jazz swagger.” – The Art Music Lounge

“One can imagine all of those “piano gods” up in heaven looking down approvingly on Weichert and perhaps even persuaded that Schulhoff, indeed, had a thing or two to bring to the jazz party.” – Examiner.com

“The outstanding German pianist, Caroline Weichert, captures the many moods of jazz to perfection, the clarity of busy hands being exemplary, while the recording quality—as with the earlier discs—is among the most realistic piano sounds you will find on disc.” – David Denton