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Auxiliary Input: December 2018

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Nozomi Kanda

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Auxiliary Input: December 2018

Auxiliary Input: December 2018Reviews of an album with works by Huybrechts, Schulhoff, Rousell and Debussy; Dave Flynn's New Music for Electric Guitar; and Bulgarian Voices featuring Lisa Gerrard.
by Anderson">Andrew Anderson
published Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Auxiliary Input: December 2018

In Auxiliary Input, Andrew Anderson, a Fine Arts Librarian at the Dallas Public Library, reviews classical and opera recordings, including by local organizations. We hope to tie them to local performances by guest artists with various orchestras and chamber music organizations.

If you have a recent or upcoming recording to suggest, email editor Mark Lowry at

Auxiliary Input: December 2018


Early 20th Century Jewels (works by Claude Debussy, Albert Roussel, Albert Huybrechts and Erwin Schulhoff)

Nozomi Kanda, flute/piccolo; Daniel Rubenstein, viola; Ingrid Procureur, harp; Didier Poskin, cello; Koenraad Hofman, double bass

Dux Recording Producers DUX 1340

Released Feb. 16, 2018

The recently released Early 20th-Century Jewels (available here) features works by two composers who don't need much introduction, and by two who do. It also takes that characterization and slaps it around a little, or at least encourages us to rethink the two unknowns: the Belgian Albert Huybrechts and the Czech-German Erwin Schulhoff. Wait—REthink? When did we ever give them enough thought to dismiss them in the first place?

Sad, perhaps, but true: the Debussy Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp is important, well-known, and as frequently performed and recorded as any flute-viola-harp piece ever will be, and it can make works by unknowns seem like placeholders. Underdog status notwithstanding, it was Schulhoff that furnished the motivation for my initial interest in this album. Last month’s Fort Worth Chamber Music Society concert by the Baumer Quartet featured a performance of selections from Schulhoff's Five Pieces for String Quartet, and that sent me looking for more music by this early 20th th century nut who composed, among other things, a vocal work based on The Communist Manifesto.

Obscure composition though it may be, the idiosyncratic instrumentation of Schulhoff's Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass makes for an insanely entertaining piece. The unearthly sounding combination of flute and double bass (especially when these two instruments play in octaves at the end of the first movement) works better than I ever would have expected. Add to that the darkish timbre of the viola and you have an ensemble that has attracted few composers (although one of that few is Michael Haydn, if we take his “violone” to mean a contrabass instrument).

The first and third movements have some built-in metrical confusion that suits the instrumentation especially well. Double-bassist Koenraad Hofman joins flutist Nozomi Kanda and violist Daniel Rubenstein—the two musicians who perform on all four works on the album—in making the work’s rhythmic challenges seem easy (especially during the scary-fast second movement, a decidedly non-traditional Czech furiant). Thanks to their extraordinary musicianship, what could have been regarded as a random collocation of instruments rather comes off as Schulhoff’s stroke of genius.

Albert Roussel’s 1929 Trio for Flute, Viola and Cello might seem to have very nearly the same instrumental forces as Schulhoff’s Concertino—cello is, of course, short for violoncello, i.e. “small violone,” which itself has an augmentative suffix “–one,” meaning “large”; that’s right, it’s a small large violone. Etymology notwithstanding, there’s so much timbral difference between Didier Poskin's cello and Hofman's double bass, we’re forced to look to the other two instruments for any similarity in sound between the Schulhoff and the Roussel.

We don't find much. Roussel and Schulhoff could hardly be more different. Roussel often constructs musical squares, while Schulhoff delights in asymmetry; Roussel's language is a chromatically-inflected tonality, while Schulhoff's tends toward a chromatic modality. And the similar instrumentation disguises differences that go beyond the two bass instruments: Schulhoff has Kanda playing piccolo in portions of the Concertino, but that work has no analogue to the fragile-sounding harmonics of the Tranquillo section of the Trio's last movement.

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