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Adolf Schulz-Evler

born: 12 December 1852
died: 15 May 1905
country: Unknown

Classical music is littered with the names of one-hit wonders—those composers who are remembered for a single work. Adolf Schulz-Evler is such a one, though it would be hard to think of another about whom so little is known. Musicologists even find it hard to decide on his first name: different sources give it as Andrzej, Andrei, Adolf or Henryk. His surname is spelt variously Szulc (in his native Polish), Schulz or Schultz (German). To distinguish himself from several other musical families named Szulc living in Warsaw at the end of the nineteenth century, he added Evler (supposedly his mother’s maiden name). We know he was born in Radom on 12 December 1852, that he died in Warsaw on 15 May 1905 and that if you mention his hyphenated name in musical circles you will automatically be referred to his one hit: the Arabesques de concert sur des thèmes de Johann Strauss II ‘An der schönen blauen Donau’. Still popular, it is a brilliant and effective end-of-recital display piece, made famous by Josef Lhévinne’s unsurpassed 1928 recording.

What else do we know of Schulz-Evler? He studied at the Instytut Muzyczny (Institute of Music) in Warsaw with Rudolf Strobl (piano) and Stanisław Moniuszko (composition), graduated at fifteen and then went to Berlin to develop his skills under Carl Tausig. In 1882, after a few years teaching in Warsaw, he left for Moscow where he was lauded by no less than Anton Rubinstein before being appointed head of piano at a private music school in St Petersburg. In 1888 we find him in Kharkov (Ukraine’s second largest city) as a professor in a local conservatory. In 1905 Schulz-Evler relinquished his professorship and returned to Warsaw where he intended to make his home again. Sadly, he died only months afterwards and was buried at the Cmentarz Ewangelicko-Augsburski (a Protestant cemetery) on 17 May 1905.

He must have been quite a pianist. The dazzling Blue Danube transcription aside, Schulz-Evler’s other solo works, whatever their musical merits, are for top flight virtuosos only, as a brief acquaintance with his Variations in G and (especially) his fearsome 1896 Octave Étude will make clear. The reviewer of a concert Schulz-Evler gave in Warsaw at the beginning of 1896 would seem to agree, describing him as ‘a pianist with an exceptional technique, who combines subtlety and delicacy of sound with bravura and power. It is a shame, however, that Mr Schulz-Evler does not always apply these qualities, because as much as the audience was enthralled by his renditions of Handel, Bach and Scarlatti, we were not entirely convinced by his interpretation of Schumann. Mr Schulz-Evler also presented works that he himself wrote, yet his own compositions, with quite ordinary themes, do not sound overly attractive: they only seem to prepare the ground for a display of brilliant technique.’

from notes by Jeremy Nicholas © 2016


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