The weight of loss, joy, and a violent understanding of human history mark this diverse trio of composers. The music of Richard Wagner is the center-piece between two extremely different artists: Czechoslovakian artist Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) and American-born Steve Reich (b. 1936). Schulhoff’s life and rich career had an abrupt end in a Bavarian concentration camp during World War II. His vast catalog is difficult to summarize since it takes so many twists and turns, and the featured piece, Sonata Erotica, is no exception. Far ahead of its time in 1919, the composition may be immediately recognizable as the musical interpretation of a woman’s orgasm. Transcending the idea of human pleasure, the piece takes on newfound poignancy in the context of both the “blood poetry” of the gifted yet fascist-approved Wagner elsewhere in the program, as well as Schulhoff’s own tragedy. Ultimately the idea of beauty emerges from the inherent darkness of the pairing. Providing deeper insight into Schulhoff’s abilities, the composition Sextet will also be performed, a less experimental but no less affecting work.
Steve Reich is perhaps more fortunate than Sculhoff, but addressed the plight of his Jewish heritage through the piece Different Trains. The sound of the work references the darker implications of the industrial trudge across war-torn Europe, however the idea came to Reich in the relative comfort of traveling by train across the United States.