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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

Frederick Jacobi was a Jewish-American composer and teacher, who was considered one of the most distinguished figures in American music during his lifetime. He could claim a distinguished pedigree, having studied with such notable names as Isidor Philipp at the Paris Conservatoire, Ernest Bloch in New York and Paul Juon in Berlin. In 1917 he married Irene Schwarcz, a classical pianist. Shortly after he enlisted in the army, and on discharge he moved to New York to be in close proximity to other American composers of the day. He taught at the Juilliard School of Music from 1936 to 1950. His works include symphonies, concertos, chamber music, works for solo piano and solo organ, lieder and one opera. His music avoids polytonality and atonality, which was all the rage at the time, gravitating towards the classical and romantic periods for inspiration. The result is tonally orientated chromaticism.

The Violin Concerto dates from 1937, and it was Albert Spalding who gave the first performance two years later. In three movements, the expansive first movement, fourteen minutes in length, is bountiful in melodiousness. There’s a cadenza almost midway, composed by André Gertler, the violinist in the recording. A very brief Andante, acting amost as a bridge between the opener and the finale reminds me very much of Otmar Schoeck’s Violin Concerto. It’s very improvisatory in character. The Concerto ends with a jaunty finale, good-humoured and spirited. As far as I can ascertain, this is the only recording of the concerto, which adds greatly to its value. I’ve no doubt in my mind, it needs an ardent champion, as it’s such a lovely work.

Nine years separates the Violin Concerto from the Concertino for Piano and Strings of 1946. The composer’s wife, Irene Jacobi, takes up the solo role. Neo-classically etched, I can’t say I’m as fond of it as the Violin Concerto. There are no ear-catching tunes, and the opening movement seems to meander somewhat. The Andante Sostenuto is dreamy and hypnotic, where Franz André provides some gentle, unobtrusive accompaniment to the piano’s limpid lines. The work ends with a Tarantella, exotic and rhythmically catchy.

The disc ends with two pieces written for flute and orchestra. Nocturne is the earliest piece from 1941. It draws its inspiration from the Lion Hunt, the Assyrian bas-relief in the British Museum, which is depicted on the CD’s front cover. Jacobi uses light-textured scoring to provide a hazy backdrop to the nostalgic vocalizing of the solo flute. Danse dates from 1951, and its dotted rhythms give it a cheery and warm-hearted disposition. Francis Stoefs is the excellent flute soloist.

The recordings derive from a mono LP (SPA-7), originating from around 1952. The sound quality is somewhat dimly lit, with the orchestra sounding rather congested in the concertos. That said, the soloists in each case are well profiled. This is a first encounter for me with Frederick Jacobi, and this release has whet my appetite do some exploring.

Stephen Greenbank

Previous review: Jonathan Woolf

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