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Wilhelm GROSZ (1894-1939)
Violin Sonata in E major, Op. 6 (1918) [31:08]
Jazzband, concert piece for violin and piano (1923) [7:04]
Louis GRUENBERG (1884-1964)
Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 18 [25:41]
Christoph Schickedanz (violin)
Dieter Lallinger (piano)
rec. 5-7 April 2004, Studio 1, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich, Germany
TELOS MUSIC TLS 135 [63:58]

The essay in the booklet notes to this Telos release describes the shockwave that the arrival of jazz sent through Europe in the early 1920s - how a generation of young composers saw jazz as a way of defying the traditions of their antecedents. For them it was a novel way of expression, even becoming a lifestyle choice. As a result elements of jazz began to appear in serious music including that of Wilhelm Grosz and Louis Gruenberg the two relatively unknown composers featured here. Telos state that these works are world premiere recordings. 

Wilhelm Grosz was born in Vienna in 1894 into a family of Jewish jewellers. Following a move to Berlin the rise of the National Socialists in Germany forced his departure to London where he began writing popular songs. At the invitation of the younger composer Eric Korngold, an old school friend, Grosz travelled in 1939 to New York to take up a film contract but died there unexpectedly the same year.
 
Grosz’sengagingViolin Sonata in E major, Op. 6 was composed in 1918 whilst he was completing his studies with Franz Schreker. There are discernable Jazz elements in the four movement score and it seems that Grosz’s writing also drew parallels with Korngold’s music. The opening movement is passionately yearning and warmly nostalgic. At times I was reminded of Brahms and also the character of many of the works being written by some of Stanford’s pupils at the Royal College of Music. Fresh and breezy, scampering and often frenetic the Scherzo has a distinct outdoor feel with a calmer and reflective central section. The Adagio consists of affectionate music that feels generously compassionate as well as rather pastoral. The Finale is predominantly vivacious and carefree. Along the way there are episodes of yearning introspection. The music takes on a weighty character and ends in a determined manner. 
From 1923 Grosz’s concert piece Jazzband, intended for the violinist Francis Aranyi evinces a fusion of late-Romantic and jazz idioms. The booklet notes comment that the score “illustrates Grosz’s growing interest in light music”, however, the score doesn’t feel “light”, just different in character. Notably percussive, Jazzband is a highly confident and extrovert score. Predominantly lively and full of energy there’s a contrasting central section where nervy calm is the order of the day. Such an appealing score wrapped in a swirl of sound makes a significant impact and certainly deserves to be heard. 

Born in Russia in 1884, Louis Gruenberg’s Jewish family emigrated to America when he was still an infant. A talented pianist as well as a composer he studied in Berlin with Friedrich Koch and later returned to Europe to study with Busoni in Vienna where came under the influence of Schoenberg’s circle. In 1912 Gruenberg had the honour of appearing as a piano soloist with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Busoni conducting. The outbreak of the First World War resulted in Gruenberg returning to America where he was able to devote much more time to composition. He employed a style that often contained American elements/influences; most notably jazz and ragtime. He wrote operas and a number of film scores, also a Violin Concerto that was commissioned and recorded by Jascha Heifetz.
 
We are not given the composition date of Gruenberg’s three movement Violin Sonata No. 2, Op. 18, however, it seems that it was published in 1924. Spiky and restless, the opening movement expends large reserves of energy. Even the contrasting slower sections feel uneasy as if unable to settle. The salon-inflected Allegretto presents a number of styles in slivers such as the waltz and polka. Everything feels a touch tongue-in-cheek but without ever approaching the level of sardonic wit that Shostakovich employs. Confident and highly appealing, the energetic Finale is essentially similar in character to the opening movement. 

This Telos release comprises three highly attractive if rarely heard works. Recorded in 2004 at the Bayerischer Rundfunk, Munich the splendid sound quality is clear and well balanced. Christoph Schickedanz and Dieter Lallinger perform throughout with a sure sense of integrity. Seemingly striking sparks off each other their vibrancy and assurance produces an abundance of excitement.
 
This is a quite splendid release that should especially appeal to those looking for something lesser known yet of high quality.
 
Michael Cookson
 

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