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Frederick JACOBI (1891-1952)
Cello Concerto (1932): Allegro Cantabile; Allegretto; Allegro Ritmico
Alban Gerhardt, cello
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Sabbath Evening Service (excerpts) (1931): Mi khamokha; V'sham'ru; O May the Words; Adon olam
Patrick Mason, baritone
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus/Joseph Cullen
Hagiographa (1938): Job; Ruth; Joshua
Brian Krinke, Perrin Yang, violins; George Taylor, viola; Stefan Reuss, cello; Joseph Werner, piano
Ahavat Olam (1945)
Cantor Robert Bloch; Aaron Miller, organ
New York Cantorial Choir/Samuel Adler
Two Pieces in Sabbath Mood (1946): Kaddish; Oneg Shabbat
Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Samuel Adler
Rec. Milken Archive of American Jewish Music


Jacobi was not one for ethnic accents so do not expect a Bloch epigone. Rather he seems to trace his musical bloodline back to the great romantics - Brahms and Schumann.

Frederick Jacobi is not quite a stranger to CD. CRI issued a collection of archive recordings during the 1990s. Both the cello concerto and the Hagiographa were on that disc. All CRI discs have now been deleted now though you may be able to pick this one up on ebay.

Jacobi was born in San Francisco of German Jewish parentage. He studied in Germany and rose to prominence especially as a teacher whose pupils included Ward, Starer and Dello Joio.

The Concerto is an explicitly devotional piece with each of its three movements based in sequence on psalms 90, 91 and 92. The work communicates as a personal prayer with the listener eaves-dropping on this intimate act of faith. It dates from 1932 written in Switzerland and revised in 1950 in Gstaad. Good to see the soloist Gerhardt putting in an unexpected experience here after his fine recording for Chandos in their Hickox series of the orchestral music of Frank Bridge. Jacobi’s music is intimate and not desperately dramatic or varied across the three movements although the mood becomes more animated and jaunty in the finale.

In 1930 working with the help of Lazar Saminsky, Jacobi wrote a full length Sabbath evening service of which we hear four excerpts extremely well performed by baritone Patrick Mason with the choir conducted by Joseph Cullen. It is an accessible piece, not specially ethnic in its accent and in truth it would fit with little discontinuity into an English Cathedral Service. The Ahavat olam kicks this trend being resolutely and most impressively Jewish in flavouring. Robert Bloch, the Cantor sings with enviable engagement and evident conviction.

Hagiographa is a chamber work for piano quintet in three movements portraying Job Ruth and Joshua. It works extremely well even more so than the Concerto. The dramatic contours of the piece and the quality of its ideas is high. This is not at all like Bloch. It is tonal, melodious and dramatic, not specially florid but somehow emotionally tense. After the high tension of the Job movement we turn to the lengthy central ‘panel’ which portrays Ruth in sweetened pastoral terms - sympathetic, loving and calm. For a moment at 1.38 there is some Hassidic flavouring but this arises naturally from the progress of the music rather than seeming grafted on.. The finale is the explosive Joshua, speaking of conflict and occasionally dashing away with Mussorgsky's unhatched chicks.

The CD ends with Two Pieces in Sabbath Mood for orchestra. Here the composer Samuel Adler (whose own music could not be more different from Jacobi's) conducts the Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra in this tonal piece. Kaddish is the first item (brief downbeat and easy with organ-loft calm) and Oneg Shabbat the second. Oneg Shabbat is grave and melodramatic with some of the slow deliberate blooming grandeur of a Stokowski Bach organ transcription. It sports some fine attitudinally tawny writing for brass at 5.19 and ends in a blaze of Brucknerian sound; perhaps just a little conventionally.

Rob Barnett

Photo credit: Composer Frederick Jacobi in 1950, at age 59
(Photo by Eric Stahlberg Portraits, courtesy Frederick A. Jacobi)

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