Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902): Symphonies Nos. 1-4 / Brandenburg State Orchestra, Frankfurt; Griffiths


Having fallen into obscurity shortly after the composer's death, the music of Salomon Jadassohn has enjoyed a re-evaluation in recent years. This cpo release was my first acquaintance with the German composer's music and based on the merits of what's to be heard here, Jadassohn's finely crafted and engaging music certainly deserves to be known by a much wider audience. In this program of the composer's four symphonies and two brief concertante works, the Brandenburg State Orchestra of Frankfurt is conducted by Howard Griffiths.

"Melody is the soul of a musical composition" wrote Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902). He also confessed "I cannot develop any proper understanding for a certain manner of 'modern musical art.' I must assume that I have fallen behind the times." It's certainly true, Jadassohn's music is strongly modeled on that of the early Romantic era. To get a perspective on where Jadassohn fits into the dominant course of Western music, he completed his Third Symphony in 1876, the same year Brahms completed his Symphony No. 1 and his Fourth Symphony premiered in 1888, the year Mahler completed his Symphony No. 1. Jadassohn's Fourth is very much a tribute to Schumann and especially Mendelssohn. If you are listening to the audio sample in the right sidebar as you read this recommendation, you're hearing the opening movement of Jadassohn's Fourth Symphony.

As each a composer, conductor, music theorist and educator, Salomon Jadassohn achieved great success and was well respected during his lifetime. His students included Frederick Delius, Edvard Grieg and George Chadwick - all composers of tuneful, tonal music. Unfortunately however, his reputation as an educator may have worked against the endurance of his music, which was characterized by some to be academic and dry - labels easy to rationalize and ones that made an outright dismissal of his music seem appropriate.

There's no question, originality is not a distinguishing feature of this music, nor was it an objective in its design, but this doesn't rob it of any of its appeal. Listeners intrigued by the idea of hearing something fresh from the early Romantic period (interestingly, in this case, from a composer influenced by the music of Wagner and Liszt), will not be disappointed. There is much to be enjoyed here, and some sections are positively masterful.

Aside from the four symphonies, the program also includes two ten minute 'Cavatines' (compositions resembling an opera aria for an accompanied solo instrument), one for violin, and the other for cello. The fine soloists, violinist Klaudyna Schulze-Broniewska and cellist Thomas Georgi are section leaders in the Brandenburg State Orchestra of Frankfurt.

There is still very little of Jadassohn's music on disc. The composer's chamber works are held in higher regard, even than his orchestral music, and there are considerably more of them to be recorded than there are orchestral works. I hope the enterprising cpo label will record some of Jadassohn's chamber works in a continuing survey of his music.

Salomon Jadassohn: Piano Trio in E major Op.20 (1860)