Full marks again to Toccata Classics in their continued discovery of obscure 19th
century German chamber music. I must admit that I had not heard of Salomon Jadassohn before this disc appeared but I most certainly should have done. First because he was a prolific composer in his own right with four symphonies, two piano concertos (recorded on Hyperion CDA67636) three piano quintets and five piano trios as well as much else. Second because he was a renowned teacher, his pupils including Busoni, Fibich, Karg-Elert and Sinding. Third because he was a fine academic with several significant books including one on counterpoint and one on Bach’s ‘Art of Fugue’. He was a Polish Jew in so far as Silesia is now a part of Poland but who studied in Leipzig. He was unable to be a church musician there but instead earned a living in the synagogue and as a composer of salon pieces under the name of ‘Avenel’.
The 1st Piano Trio
is an undemanding work both intellectually and technically - and what is the harm is that I hear you cry! It falls into three very charming and quite memorable movements. The first is in sonata-form - the exposition is repeated - with interesting modulations; the second is shorter. Mostly in the minor it has a rather strutting piano intro with a canonic - or at least an imitative - melody at the octave between the violin and cello and is in ternary form. The finale is marked ‘brillante’ and is more of a Rondo. Mendelssohn will come to mind as might Schumann. Jadassohn took private lessons with Liszt much to the alarm of his earlier teachers but as yet none of that washes off in this work. The performance captures the salon mood of this finale well and indeed of the whole work but the balance between the piano and strings when they play pizzicato is not always clear.
I really took to the 2nd Piano Trio
. It is in four movements and is a longer and more serious affair than the 1st
but still charming and melodious. Its first movement, again in sonata-form is mostly in E minor but with the G major second subject marked ‘con intimo sentimento’ – the salon again. The slow movement is too short although perfectly formed. Malcolm MacDonald’s excellent and most welcome booklet notes suggest that “it could well merit performance on its own, perhaps as an encore piece”. The A minor third movement he describes as a “witty scherzo”. It’s actually marked, rather vaguely as ‘Allegretto molto moderato’. I suspect that if the work was more of a repertoire item or if the otherwise superb Syrius Trio had had more opportunities to perform the work live they might well up the tempo by at least five ‘notches’ on the metronome which would give it a little more character. The finale is spirited and forthright and brings the work to a joyous conclusion.
What I especially like about Jadassohn, and why I would have liked to have met him, is that he does not take himself too seriously. Take the Piano Trio No 3
. It is in C minor, Beethoven’s ‘big key’. This trio starts portentously even pompously but before we know where we are we have skipped into new keys like E major and later F major. Malcolm MacDonald’s analysis is always revealing no matter what the composer or work and he uses words to describe the second subject and development like ‘sparkling’ and ‘hunting music’ and ‘warm’. These are not words you necessarily associate with C minor. The middle movement is unusual. True, it is another ‘Romanza – Andante tranquillo’ but after not too long we move into a light-hearted almost G&S-like ‘Allegretto Grazioso’. The finale which is only three and a half minutes in length reminded me of something I have recently heard by Moscheles but I can’t remember what, so possibly that’s of no help to you except that you perhaps get the general idea.
What I first thought would be a run-of-the-mill composer has proved to be an enjoyable and original one despite the fact that his language is quite definitely bound into his time. He is a prime example of a good quality and at times, masterly composer whose only problem is that he does not have much to say. What he does have to say is attractive, unobjectionable and amusing like a perfect dinner guest. As it turns out he was, according to his students and friends, a happy and amiable personality.
The performances are quite beautiful and the disc’s presentation clear and helpful.