Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Quartet No. 1 in c,
Piano Quartet No. 2 in f,
Piano Quartet in Eb
Leipzig Pn Qrt
QUERSTAND 1222 (78: 57)
The most interesting item on this brand new release is the piano quartet by Salomon Jadassohn (1831–1902). Rather
than repeat his life story here, I would refer you to my review of his piano trios in the 34:6 issue, previously the sole entry in the
Archive for this sorely neglected late-19th-century German composer. ArkivMusic, in fact, lists only the reviewed piano trios disc, this Querstand recording of Jadassohn’s Piano Quartet, and Volume 47 in Hyperion’s “Romantic Piano Concerto” series, containing the composer’s two piano concertos. That’s quite a record of neglect, considering that the man wrote nearly 150 works, including, allegedly, even an opera, though my admittedly cursory research didn’t turn up the name of it. Most of Jadassohn’s efforts, however, were devoted to chamber music—a string quartet, three piano quartets, four piano trios, and three piano quintets—countless songs and choral works, and (good grief!) four symphonies. This sort of thing is right up CPO’s alley; one can only wonder why the German label, dedicated to saving so many lost souls, hasn’t gotten around to rescuing one of its own.
The case for Jadassohn’s music may not be the most convincing or compelling, but surely it’s as worth making as are the cases for some of the authentic nonentities that find their way onto disc these days. Jadassohn didn’t get around to composing the C-Minor Piano Quartet, his first of three, until 1884, at the age of 53, placing it squarely between Brahms’s Third and Fourth Symphonies. The quartet is drop-dead gorgeous, but it’s of a musical style and vocabulary rather earlier than Brahms’s at the time. If you could somehow fuse the forward-thrusting rhythmic and harmonic patterning of Mendelssohn with the arching lyricism of Schumann, you would have Jadassohn’s piano quartet, which is why it was a brilliant, if obvious, stroke also to include on the disc works by both Mendelssohn and Schumann. No Mendelssohn scherzo is any more Mendelssohnian than the scherzo (second movement) of Jadassohn’s quartet, and no contrasting trio section any more Schumannesque than the trio section from that same movement. This is a significant addition to the piano quartet literature.
By virtue of the composer’s name recognition, Mendelssohn’s F-Minor Piano Quartet has received a measure of attention on disc perhaps to a degree somewhat more than it warrants. The piece is a student work, written at the age of 14 and dedicated to Mendelssohn’s teacher, Carl Friedrich Zelter. It predates the Octet and the
Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream
, the two teenaged works in which Mendelssohn’s genie fully escaped its bottle. It’s only because the work bears the name of a famous composer and was written by a 14-year-old boy 61 years before the 53-year-old Jadassohn wrote his piano quartet that Mendelssohn’s effort is regarded more highly than Jadassohn’s. Yet hearing the Mendelssohn immediately following the Jadassohn on the disc, there’s no question but that, in at least this one instance, Jadassohn’s is the far superior work.
Schumann’s Eb-Major Piano Quartet needs no introduction. It’s one of the six great works that sprang forth from his miraculous chamber music year of 1842, the other five being the Eb-Major Piano Quintet, the three string quartets, and the
for piano trio, op. 88. Not surprisingly, it’s the Schumann that offers the Leipzig Piano Quartet the greatest competition.
Querstand’s booklet note names the four musicians that chair the Leipzig Piano Quartet and provides biographical sketches for each of them, but curiously, no mention is made of the ensemble as a corporate entity. Not even the group’s website, leipziger-klavierquartett.de, gives its founding date or anything about its history. What it does give us is an overview of the ensemble’s repertoire, which ranges from Beethoven to Schnittke, though, thus far, the trio of piano quartets on the present CD is the Leipzig Piano Quartet’s first and only recording.
All four players have professional pedigrees and are apparently members in one or another of Leipzig’s established orchestral organizations, so the technical level of performance is very high. My one disagreement with the ensemble is on an interpretive point involving the chosen tempo for the
movement of the Schumann. As I’ve said in a previous review of the work performed by the Fine Arts Quartet, Schumann may just have crafted the most poignant melody ever written; all of the world’s pain and sorrow are borne by its grief. I realize it’s a personal thing, but for my taste the Leipzig Piano Quartet’s too-hurried tempo for this movement fails to savor its pathos.
Other than that, I have no complaints about the performances or the recording, and for the Jadassohn alone, I give this release an urgent recommendation.
FANFARE: Jerry Dubins
Works on This Recording
Piano Quartet in C minor, Op. 77 by Salomon Jadassohn
Leipzig Piano Quartet
Date of Recording: 03/2012
Length: 30 Minutes 1 Secs.
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