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Frederick JACOBI (1891-1952)
String Quartet No 3 (1945) [25:14]
Ballade for Violin and Piano (1942) [11:43]
Fantasy for Viola and Piano (1941) [9:24]
Lyric Art Quartet
Fredell Lack (violin)
Louise Rood (viola)
Irene Jacobi (piano)
rec. 1960

This isn’t my first encounter with the music of Frederick Jacobi. Earlier this year I reviewed another Forgotten Records’ release featuring his Violin Concerto amongst other orchestral works.

The Jewish-American composer was a significant figure in American music during his lifetime. He’d studied with 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. She features in two of the pieces on the disc. Following a spell in the army he moved to New York and taught at the Juilliard School of Music from 1936 to 1950. Steering clear of more modern trends prevalent at the time including polytonality and atonality, his music rather takes its inspiration from classical and romantic periods. The result is tonally orientated chromaticism.  His works include symphonies, concertos, chamber music, works for solo piano and solo organ, lieder and one opera.

The four movement String Quartet No 3 dates from 1945 and was premiered that same year by the Budapest String Quartet in San Francisco. The outer movements begin similarly with an angular declamatory passage before settling into something more rhapsodic. The second movement is an Andante espressivo, where tender lyricism rubs shoulders with more wistful and yearning elements. The sprightly Scherzo brims over with zestful exuberance and will o'the wisp chatter.

The Ballade for Violin and Piano was composed three years earlier in 1942 for violinist Eudice Shapiro and the composer's wife, Irene Jacobi. In this recording, the violinist is Fredell Lack, leader of the Lyric Art Quartet, partnered by Irene Jacobi. Fairly substantial at over eleven minutes in length, much of the writing is impressionistic and rhapsodic. It also sounds quite improvisatory in parts.

The Fantasy for Viola and Piano was penned a year before the Ballade. It was written for violist Louise Rood, who performs it here with, once again, Irene Jacobi. It’s more introspective and sombre than the Ballade and makes great demands technically on the violist. Although it has its moments of high tension and drama, there are more warm-hearted sections scattered throughout.

The recordings have been remastered from a Composer’s Recordings, Inc LP (CRI 146) and emerge warm and intimate. The Quartet fares best. In the Ballade and Fantasy there’s some imbalance between the performers, with the stringed instruments very forwardly projected, and the piano slightly recessed.

I have to say that I find Frederick Jacobi’s music very appealing. For those wishing to explore further, there’s the Violin Concerto on the other Forgotten Records’ release which I referred to above, and an attractive Naxos release, part of their Milken Archive edition, which features the Cello Concerto and some vocal items (8.559434). It’s been reviewed by my colleague Rob Barnett.

Stephen Greenbank

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