Schulhoff wrote his Suite for violin and piano, WV18, in 1911. Clearly this was a piece to which he attached importance at the time, since he designated it his official Opus 1 (superseding an earlier series of opus numbers that he had used for juvenile works), and it was his first work in an extended musical form. This five-movement Suite draws in part on Baroque and later dance forms, and there’s perhaps an influence from the various suites ‘in olden style’ that were in vogue at the time. Schulhoff is likely to have been familiar with one in particular: his former teacher Reger wrote a Suite im alten Stil
(Op 93) that is best known in its later version for orchestra, but was originally published for violin and piano in 1906. There’s certainly no faux-Baroque in the rhapsodic first movement, a ripely expressive Präludium in an ardent, late-Romantic style, with the tempo marking Stürmisch (Stormy). It is one of the two movements of the Suite to have superscriptions on the autograph manuscript where it is described as ‘Erotik’ (Erotic). This might seem a slightly anomalous start to a work that is largely based on old dance forms, but it’s a very effective movement and demonstrates a considerable flair for idiomatic violin writing. The Gavotte that follows is an elegantly turned movement with clear Baroque roots, but Schulhoff offers a contrast in its central section where a violin drone supports the piano. The third movement is a Menuetto (with trio) that again reveals Schulhoff’s ability to write with charm and quirky individuality, even when he is essentially composing a pastiche. The fourth movement is a waltz and here Schulhoff’s writing feels much freer: there’s not only fluency but also melodic invention tinged with melancholy, and some attractively mobile late-Romantic harmonies. After this rather haunting movement, the finale of the Suite is a Scherzo (again with trio), with a superscription on the manuscript: ‘Dance of the Little Devils’, presumably suggested by the spiky and uneasy main theme. This inventive and attractive work remained unpublished until 2004.
from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2011