Archive for August 8th, 2011


He had been a rising star in the cultural world of the 1920s and inspite of having served his country in the first world war and having been wounded on the Russian front twice, he now found himself blacklisted, struggling to survive solely because he was jewish….his friends tried to warn him, “Erwin, get out now, leave while you can!”…but he delayed, it was difficult to leave his beloved Prague…..the day arrived that the Soviet Union finally granted him citizenship and he prepared to move with his son and wife to the safety that it afforded…in the summer of 1941, the unexpected happened,  Hitler in an operation called “Barbarosa” invaded the Soviet Union in his blitzkrieg assault…the next day Erwin was ordered to the police station…in the winter of that year he was deported to the Wulzburg Concentration Camp where a sympathetic camp commander spared him the exhausting field work but he soon died of tuberculosis; he was 48 years old…Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague of German Jewish origen…in his youth he studied composition and piano at Prague, Vienna, Leipzig and Cologne where his teachers included Claude Debussy…


He would become a celebrated pianist performing throughout Europe including at the renown Osvobozene Divadlo in Praque which was part of the avant-guarde theater movement…among the theater’s influences were the ideas of F T Marinetti author of the famous manifesto “Down With Tango”…..after the war, like so many young people, symbolized by T. S. Eliot’s “Wasteland” – “April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain – he was deeply disillusioned, lost and depressed and like many, he found his inspiration in the Russian revolution of 1917…he was one of Europe’s first classical music composers to find inspiration in tango and jazz…his music was so much him, that he continued to compose even in the concentration camp and at the Russian front; in fact he published his first composition immediately after the war…”Alla Milonga Tango” was the 4th composition of “Five Pieces For String Quartet” which premiered at the International Society for New Music Festival in Salzburg on August 8, 1924…another “tango milonga” the mythical Suicide Tango would be composed four years later by Jerzy Petersburski and would have a macabre fate