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Music of 19th Century Jewish-German Composers Vols 4 & 5
Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Symphony No. 1 in C major op. 24 (1860) [24:27]*
Paul PABST (1854-1879)
Piano Concerto in E flat major op. 82 [33:42]*
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor op. 89 [16:09]**
Panagiotis Trochopoulos (piano)*
Valentina Seferinova (piano)**
Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra/Marius Stravinsky*
Karelia State Symphony Orchestra/Denis Vlasenko**
rec. 2007* and 2005 (Pabst Piano Concerto), Minsk, and 2008, Petrozavodsk** (concert recordings).

Ignaz BRÜLL (1846-1907)
Overture: Macbeth [8:21]
Violin Concerto in A minor op. 41 (1882) [31:01]
Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Serenade for Flute and Strings op. 80 (1860) [27:21]
Ilya Hoffman (violin); Rebecca Hall (flute)
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra/Michael Laus
rec. 2011, Robert Sammut Hall, Malta.

Volume 4
Now named Paul rather than Pavel Pabst, this recording of the Piano Concerto in E flat major Op. 82 has been reviewed here on CC9021CD. The Salomon Jadassohn first Symphony and Piano Concerto appeared on CC9026CD (see review). With no mention of these previous incarnations, re-mastering or any other kind of advantage the repositioning of the Pabst Piano Concerto for inclusion in the 19th Century Jewish Composers series would appear the only reason for this new programme. Having identical recordings of the same music on separate volumes in the same series just seems perverse.
Jadassohn’s Symphony No. 1 is a very nice work indeed, fairly compact and unfussy in its development of strong ideas. Historical criticism of his music is indeed proven entirely unfair on this evidence, and though there is a period feel to the music in its connections to Mendelssohn and other models, these are characteristics which reveal more about cross-pollination of style and ideas in Germany, rather than weaknesses or lack of originality. Performed well by the Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra, this is a grand and refreshing work which manages to avoid stodge, evades too much sequential repetition and can certainly not be accused of pretension. The recording of Jadassohn’s single movement Piano Concerto has a more ‘live’ feel, with some coughing and what amounts to a mono balance, the orchestra sitting rather indistinctly behind a somewhat pingy sounding piano, a quality due at least in part to the rather restricted range of the recording. Jadassohn studied with Liszt, and this work follows in his footsteps to a certain extent, though it sounds like great fun for the pianist, with runs spanning the entire range of the keyboard.
With biographical details covered in the aforementioned reviews I’m sticking to my responses to the music for the most part, but I was initially intrigued to know more about Paul Pabst as his birthplace of Königsberg, now Kaliningrad, is a spot shared by someone I happen to be studying, the scientist Karl Ernst von Baer. Von Baer is a little earlier than Pabst and the composer would only have been four years old by the time he left for St Petersburg, but I like those little details of historical continuity. Schubert had only been dead for about three years when Pabst was born. Von Baer made his greatest discoveries at about the same time. The past is another country, but it’s nice to think von Baer might have passed Pabst’s pram in Pobedy park.
Paul Pabst’s Piano Concerto – his first orchestral composition – is a substantial work, and is performed by a soloist whose track record has also been heard in a solo release from Cameo Classics (see review). Panagiotis Trochopoulos brings out the full romantic flavour of the piece while the orchestra struggles a little from time to time, but with beautiful themes and a strong sense of individuality, this is certainly a work worth hearing. The influences of Liszt, Saint-Saëns and others form something of a reference, and Pabst shares a spiritual affinity with Anton Rubinstein who described his playing as ‘perfect’. The Russian establishment wasn’t prepared to accept Pabst as a composer however, and the story of how the score was packed off back to Leipzig and subsequently ‘lost’ after its poor reception in St. Petersburg is described in the booklet. Danacord has released a recording of this work on DACOD660 with Oleg Marshev as soloist and I’ve had a listen online. By all accounts this is a more impressive recording all-round, with certainly more proficiency from the South Jutland Symphony Orchestra. If this work is the focus of your interest then it is worth shopping around.

Volume 5
This fifth volume delivers the complete Violin Concerto by Ignaz Brüll, a taster for which appeared on CC9026CD – as did the Macbeth Overture (see review). This kind of repetition of the same recordings within a single series also cropped up in volume 4. I hope it doesn’t prelude a bizarre watering-down of what promises to be a unique and remarkable series.
Ignaz Brüll became a friend of Brahms, who is said to have envied Brüll’s abundance of melodic ideas. The fluidity of expression in the Violin Concerto is the best evidence for this here, with its technical fireworks always variations on lovely melodic themes backed by satisfying harmonic colour and effective orchestration. The booklet notes suggest Brüll should be “repositioned alongside friends Brahms, Mahler and Schumann”, and while recognition is indeed well overdue I would be a tad more cautious about elevating the Violin Concerto quite so high. It is a tremendous work, but does have rather extended patches of transition which are of rather limited interest. Brüll is however good at building tension over longer periods, and the symphonic scale of the first movement is impressive. The central Molto moderato quasi andante is gorgeous, and the final Allegro has a fine sense of fleetness, but while reluctant to be dismissive I would hesitate to call the work particularly innovative. The recording is nice enough but the performance could be bettered all-round, with numerous untidy corners. The Macbeth overture is an interesting character piece, accurately described in the booklet as a “small tone poem”. It has some striking moments but is a bit heavy on the four-square rhythms and there’s a funny edit which misses out part of a beat one minute in.
Salomon Jadassohn worked under the shadow of Carl Reinecke at the Leipzig Conservatory. A combination of this and his Jewishness ensured lack of significant performances of his work despite a reputation as a teacher which attracted the likes of Busoni, Grieg and Karg-Elert. The charming Serenade for Flute and Strings Op. 80 was written to supplement the repertoire of the New York Philharmonic Club. They must have been delighted with their acquisition. This is a nice showcase for flautist Rebecca Hall, who has also appeared on the Cameo Classics British Composers Premiere Collections (see review, and also here). The work has a classical feel, with the influence of Mendelssohn prominent. The second movement Notturno lacks its own access point and is lumped in with the Intrata owing to the nature of the score, in which the flute plays a little transition. You will find the changeover at 5:47. Light humour characterises the Menuetto, and the final Tarantella is sprightly but not particularly high-octane.
Not without its flaws, this is nevertheless an interesting programme of music you are unlikely to find anywhere else, so bravo for that.
Dominy Clements