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Salomon JADASSOHN (1831-1902)
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 24 (1861) [24:51]
Serenade for Flute and Strings, Op. 80 (1860) [27:34]
Serenade No. 2 in D major, Op. 46
Serenade No. 3 in A major, Op. 47 (1876)
Serenade No. 1 in 4 Canons, Op. 42
Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor Op. 89 (1887) [16:14]
Valentina Seferinova (piano)
Rebecca Hall (flute)
Belarussian State Symphony Orchestra/Marius Stravinsky (Op. 24)
Malta Philharmonic Orchestra/Michael Laus (Op. 80 & OP. 47);
Marius Stravinsky (Op. 42 & Op. 46)
Karelia State Symphony Orchestra/Denis Vlasenko (Op. 89)
rec. 2010-11, Robert Sammut Hall, Malta; 2007, Minsk (Op. 24);
2008, Petrozavodsk (Op.89)
CAMEO CLASSICS CC9101 [77:36 + 68:14]

Salomon Jadassohn was born in Breslau, capital of the former Prussian province of Silesia, but now in Poland, where it is known as Wrocław and lies on the banks of the River Oder. Jadassohn was first educated locally, before enrolling at Leipzig Conservatory, where he studied composition with Moritz Hauptmann, Ernst Richter, and Julius Rietz, and piano with Ignaz Moscheles; he also studied privately under Liszt in Weimar. His Jewish heritage meant that Jadassohn could not qualify for the many church positions available as director of music or organist, so instead, in addition to some private teaching, he worked for a Leipzig synagogue and a few local choral societies. Eventually, he was able to obtain a position at the Conservatory, where he taught piano and composition, with Grieg and Busoni among his long list of alumni.
Jadassohn wrote more than 140 works in virtually every genre, including four symphonies, two piano concertos, chamber music, Lieder, and an opera, as well as several important books on composition and theory. Despite all this, it was often felt that world-famous piano virtuoso and composer Carl Reinecke (1824-1910) – both an important figure at the Conservatory, and the conductor of the acclaimed Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra – significantly overshadowed the efforts of his slightly younger contemporary. Additionally, the rising tide of antisemitism in late 19th-century Germany was beginning to have its effect from the cultural standpoint.   

This double-CD reissue featuring some of Jadassohn’s works opens with his Symphony No 1 in C major (1861). From the very outset, it makes a bold, rhythmic statement with its triple-time main theme, the necessary contrast then coming from the more lyrical second subject. Structurally, it does everything by the book, is tastefully orchestrated, and often has a Mendelssohnian lightness in the background. The Scherzo, in the subdominant key of F, follows with effective juxtapositions of full orchestra and smaller sections – a jolly, almost rustic confection. The Trio veers into the minor key to add a slight degree of seriousness to the mix, but in the event nothing too sombre, with even a short return to the minor just before the close. The slow movement (Largo e Mesto) is the longest movement, although only marginally so, and reveals another side to the composer’s melodic vocabulary. It is a poignant outpouring of simple, heartfelt grief, tastefully crafted throughout, showing Jadassohn’s particular penchant for, and skill in, writing for woodwind. The Finale (Allegro molto e vivace) picks up from where the opening Allegro left off in terms of fun and high spirits – again, we hear a degree of Mendelssohn, perhaps mixed with a little of Bizet’s own Symphony in the same key, and composed by a seventeen-year-old student just a few years earlier in 1855.  

The Serenade for flute and strings was written at the request of the New York Philharmonic Club, an exclusive group of German-trained members of the New York Philharmonic who presented a series of concerts at New York’s Chickering Hall. Despite the paucity of repertoire for the ensemble (flute, two violins, viola, cello and double-bass), flautist Eugene Weimar was often called upon to appear as concerto soloist. The commissioning in the 1880s of Serenades from both Jadassohn and Heinrich Hoffmann gave the group something more substantial to work on, rather than the plethora of pot-pourris, or operatic Theme and Variations that would otherwise have provided their main fodder. Jadassohn’s Serenade opens with a charming Intrata – light and entertaining, though never merely trite, and which might provide a perfect little number for an imaginative choreographer. The flute leads via a little recitative into the dreamy Notturno, full of romantic outpouring and one of those little gems that could easily survive on its own. There is a short, contrasting central episode, after which the calm of the opening returns – all in all, a delightful little miniature. A Menuetto follows which, as the performance direction (Allegro energico) suggests, has a nicely-poised sense of onward progression, juxtaposing minor and major sections. A short Fughetta, demonstrating the composer’s easy skill in handling contrapuntal techniques, functions as a first Trio, with a decidedly salon-style episode left, on this occasion, to act as the second. The Finale is simply marked Tarantella and does everything you’d expect from this fast Italian dance. The texture is light and fluffy, almost a French musical soufflé, despite being cast in a fairly rigorous academic framework with a short fugal episode to boot. Despite this, Jadassohn’s melodic invention is always to the fore, so it’s always entertaining, and captivating, all rounded off by a great little coda, where the composer nicely cranks up the tempo to great effect.

CD1 closes with the three-movement Serenade No 2 in D, the first one of which is a grandiose, ceremonious march with a hint of Wagnerian bombast along the way. The movement is entitled Intrada e notturno – the sleeve-note favours ‘Intrada’ spelt with the regular ‘d’ on this occasion. After all the marching, not surprisingly the tempo eases, and the scene is then set for the lyrical and expressive Nocturne to follow – on paper a strange stylistic juxtaposition, but which works well in practice, aided by the Nocturne’s now familiar design-feature of contrasting sections. There is an almost elfin-like lightness in the charming Menuetto that follows, where the composer skilfully compares and contrasts matters of texture, and high and low registers. The Trio features an effective change of metre, and, as earlier, gives full rein to the wind section in particular, before a reprise of the Minuetto, back in its customary triple measure. The Finale initially picks up the ceremonial thread of the first movement again, but now in three-time, where most of the nine or so minutes are involved in working out this theme alongside a more gently-flowing one. However, after what precedes it on the first CD, this ordinary-sounding Finale does seem a tad short on invention and originality by comparison.

CD2 opens with more of the same, this time the Serenade No 3 in A which begins, appropriately enough, with a movement entitled Introduzione. The main emphasis here, as indeed throughout the work’s four movements, is attractive, melodious writing, that makes but few demands on the listener, and which here could easily be construed in the manner of an overture to a stage-work. This is followed by Cavatina e Intermezzo; again, the clue is in the title. Jadassohn’s real skill as an orchestrator is once more apparent, for example in the especially effective use of counter-melodies on the horn, the quite delightful writing for woodwind, and the discrete use of the triangle in the second section. There is a real sense of swagger in the Scherzo, with its mix of overtones of Bruckner and Gounod, to name but two, especially in the more triumphant sections midway through and at the close. The pulsating accompaniment-figure that starts the Finale simply adds to the overall appeal of this movement from the outset. It absolutely oozes melody as it sails along; the composer also has that happy knack, rather like Schubert, of introducing more and more melodious outpouring, rather than systematically just working through and developing existing organic material – altogether a most enjoyable work that deserves to be up there with Serenades from infinitely greater names like Brahms, Dvořák or Tchaikovsky.   

The Serenade No 1 in 4 Canons, Op 42 might sound rather dry and academic, something perhaps from such an erudite tome as Bach’s Art of Fugue, whereas, in reality, most would probably be unaware of the canonic structure of five otherwise delightful movements, which are crammed-full with melodic appeal. The celebrated finale to César Franck’s Violin Sonata is also an example of a canon, but again there is really nothing overtly bookish about it in performance. The second movement of Jadassohn’s Serenade is a Menuetto, just like the other examples heard on these two CDs – except that it’s a canon, too (that is, rather like a Round, where one part, or ‘voice’, copies the first at a set distance, both in terms of time and pitch). Woodwind is again prominent throughout, especially in the Trio section, where a quasi-pastoral flavour is evident. The compact Adagietto has a Mendelssohnian feeling to its melody and harmony, sugary-sweet, but not overdone. The Intermezzo (Allegretto scherzando un poco vivo) again gives the woodwind a prominent role, finely offset by the judicious use of string pizzicati. The finale does exactly what it says on the tin – ‘Very lively, and with vigour’ (Molto allegro e con brio), and provides an ideal conclusion, still maintaining the canonic aspect which is, perhaps, somewhat easier to spot in this movement. The whole work is an especially fine example of quality light-music, designed both to captivate and entertain, which Jadassohn manages to perfection.

The final work on the CD, Jadassohn’s Piano Concerto No 1 in C minor, opens with bravura octaves from the piano, in the true manner of any full-blooded Romantic concerto, but this soon subsides to a slow, sensuous melody, interspersed with short recitative-like interjections. A single audience cough around 2:40 becomes a slight irritation for a moment and confirms that this is a live recording. The work is rhapsodic in nature, essentially cast in two movements with an introduction, though all played without a break, which comes as no surprise given similar models by Liszt, with whom Jadassohn had studied. At 7:20, during another octave passage from the soloist, there appears to be what might be a retake, where the performance had been restarted, and the hiatus edited out – well, almost. Overall this does not detract in any significant way from the momentum of the performance of a work that is both most sensitively scored, contains a good deal of virtuosity, and some delicate filigree accompaniment figures, from a composer who clearly knew his instrument inside out. The concerto rushes headlong towards its exciting conclusion, with few, if any, pretentions to profundity. It is designed to entertain and thrill, which it certainly does with its abundance of pure melody, piano fireworks, and exciting orchestral colours and textures.

It’s good to see Cameo Classics championing the output of Salomon Jadassohn, as his music really does have something personal to say, and stands head and shoulders above those other similar composers who, for whatever reason, have fallen victim to the ravages of time or taste and are still awaiting their own renaissance. The performances are generally good, if not quite exemplary – particularly in the Piano Concerto, where there is the odd hiatus in ensemble between soloist and orchestra at cadence points. Similarly, the recordings seek to make the best of the original sound and arrive at an acceptable compromise overall in terms of the use of various venues and artists; the sleeve-note are informative and helpful, too.

Philip R Buttall

Previous review: Stephen Greenbank




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