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Frederick JACOBI (1891-1952)
Violin Concerto (1937) [24:41]
Concertino for piano and strings (1946) [16:00]
Two Pieces for flute and orchestra: Nocturne (1941) [5:29]; Danse (1951) [2:25]
André Gertler (violin)
Irene Jacobi (piano)
Francis Stoefs (flute)
Orchestre de l’Institut National Belge de Radiodiffusion/Franz André
rec. c. 1952

San Francisco-born Frederick Jacobi taught at Juilliard and won performances from leading musicians. One of his own teachers, Bloch, was to exert an influence on his music but not before he went through a Native American phase. This and the Bloch-inspired Hebraic music of the 1940s has tended to mark out his musical demographic, an effect buttressed by the few recordings available on 78s at the time. Of these Hagiographa, three Biblical narratives was by some way the most prominent, his wife Irene joining the eminent Coolidge Quartet.

But there was always more to Jacobi than what some may consider exotica. His 1937 Violin Concerto, for instance, premiered by Albert Spalding two years later, is one such work and an example of his fulsome romantic lyricism. Conservative by the standards of the day it is still a resiliently attractive work and though it lacks the memorability of Barber’s near-contemporary concerto it makes a direct appeal to the senses. André Gertler gave the work its first European performances and was the first to record it; he also supplies a cadenza. Highlights include a filmically rich first movement second subject, refulgent romantic tracery, a brief Andante and a fluid easy-going finale, albeit with a rather perfunctory end; perhaps that was part of Jacobi’s throwaway giocoso plan. Throughout, Franz André is the watchful accompanist.

Irene Jacobi plays the Concertino which helpfully reveals another element to the composer’s stylistic DNA. This is a more overtly neo-classical affair, light in spirit but expert in craftsmanship. Its central movement is almost Ravelian in limpidity and refinement, whilst the finale is a crisp and exciting Tarantella. The final pieces are the two written for flute and orchestra. The first is a Nocturne, of 1941, which is a revision of the second movement of a discarded symphony of 1926. It was inspired by the Lion Hunt, the Assyrian bas-relief in the British Museum and there is an appropriate sense of exotic nostalgia in this languid Francophile piece. The companion Danse, written in 1951, the year before the composer’s death, is altogether more free-spirited and straightforward. Francis Stoefs is the accomplished soloist.

FR generally doesn’t provide notes and there are none here but there are web links. The music was originally released on SPA-7 which was a somewhat dully recorded mono, the contents of which have been faithfully and finely transferred. Inevitably this gives short measure for a CD but the repertoire is of real interest.

Jonathan Woolf

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