The Sonata No 2 for violin and piano WV91 was composed in November 1927, right after the Esquisses de jazz
(which includes a Charleston, Tango and Black Bottom). But it’s not jazz that is the strongest influence here but the music of Béla Bartók, which Schulhoff greatly admired. However, Schulhoff’s mature language is quite distinctive, and in this piece he makes use of some cleverly devised motivic organization that unifies the whole sonata. The first movement opens with an energetic, rhythmical violin theme which generates further ideas as the movement progresses—the contrasting second theme has some of the same rhythmic fingerprints, and the results are cohesive and compelling. But Schulhoff takes things further: the short Andante begins with slow, tolling, piano chords, but the violin starts with the same rhythmic motif as the first movement—two accented semiquavers followed by a long note—and this idea pervades the whole sonata. Indeed, the third movement Burlesca opens with the self-same rhythm, albeit in a very different context. At the start of the finale, Schulhoff reprises the opening of the first movement before moving in new directions that are propulsive and exciting. At the very end, it is the same group of three notes that drives the music to its close, marked molto feroce. Though it works well as a means of providing formal coherence, this little rhythmic cell is one that is to be found all over Schulhoff’s music of this period: the Double Concerto and Piano Sonata No 3, both written in the same year as the Violin Sonata No 2, have movements that make use of the same rhythmic motif. It was clearly a musical gesture that obsessed the composer at the time. The first performance of the Second Violin Sonata was given in Geneva on 7 April 1929 with violinist Richard Zika and Schulhoff himself at the piano.
from notes by Nigel Simeone © 2011