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photo credit: Michelle Smith-Lewis Courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts


Tempo of Recollection, an innovative blend of chamber music and theatrical performance, explores the compositions of Czech composer Erwin Schulhoff in the sultry atmosphere of a late-night Prague dance hall circa 1925, replete with musicians, drunkards, flirts and poets.

Appealing to new and younger audiences by integrating live music, projected images, ambient sound, lighting and a spare set, this fresh approach appeals to the seasoned chamber music lover as well, offering historical, cultural and aesthetic contexts for a range of Schulhoff's extraordinary work. Entering Schulhoff's provocative haunts, the audience is swept into the artistic milieu of pre-World War II Central Europe and an artist whose work was all but lost in the aftermath of the Holocaust.

As waiters, waitresses, sophisticates and floozies dance the audience from piece to piece, Tempo of Recollection showcases diverse explorations of Schulhoff's music - from Tango and Charleston to Dada to the Sonata Erotica. This tapestry of Schulhoff's rich and varied works culminates with a complete performance of Schulhoff's riveting 2nd String Quartet, featuring the extraordinary Saint Helens String Quartet.

photo credit: Michelle Smith-Lewis Courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts

The show opens with a 'noted guest speaker' who briefly introduces Schulhoff's life and works before transforming into Schulhoff himself. From the first tumbling notes of Schulhoff's Tempo di Fox a la Hawaii and the first blizzard of projected images across fluttering table cloths, this compelling piece goes beyond the dance hall for a far deeper dig: down to the very roots of one man's creative audacity and an extraordinary life cut short by the Nazi regime.

Tempo of Recollection's ensemble of musicians, actors and dancers keep the mood playful and surprising, even as they invite the audience to make deeper connections.

photo credit: Michelle Smith-Lewis Courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts

photo credit: Michelle Smith-Lewis Courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts

Schulhoff: The voice of pre-WWII innovation

Best known as one of the first composers to successfully integrate jazz and neoclassical approaches, Schulhoff was a fascinating and significant artistic presence in Central Europe during the 1920s and 30s. Born in Prague in 1894, this gifted Jewish artist was discovered at the age of 7 by Antonin Dvorak and attended music academies throughout Europe: Vienna, Leipzig, and Koln. In Paris he studied with Claude Debussy. He was a rising star with a successful career as a concert pianist, jazz improviser and composer, and was friends with many noted artists and composers of the time including Leos Janacek, Alban Berg, Otto Dix and Georg Grosz.

Schulhoff's creativity was an expression of the flowering of Central Europe art prior to the War. His work pushed boundaries - encompassing sophisticated neoclassical approaches, jazz and popular dance music, while incorporating his interest in the artistic movements of Dada and Expressionism. Following his death in a Nazi labor camp in 1942, his work, like that of many of his contemporaries, was nearly erased by the Holocaust and the fall of the Iron Curtain. Schulhoff's work is an example of the artistic legacy of Central Europe that was buried in the cultural rubble of the war.

Tempo of Recollection gives audiences an opportunity to rediscover the distinctive artistic voice of one of this lost generation's unique artists and an important contributor to the chamber music canon.

photo credit: Michelle Smith-Lewis Courtesy of Cornish College of the Arts