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Milken Archive - F. Jacobi: Cello Concerto, Etc

Release Date: 11/16/2004 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8559434   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Frederick Jacobi
Performer:  Alban GerhardtRobert Bloch
Conductor:  Karl Anton RickenbacherJoseph Cullen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Symphony OrchestraSlovak Radio Symphony OrchestraAcademy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This Milken Archive disc presents five works by Frederick Jacobi (1891-1952), one of the first 20th-century American composers to successfully unite authentic Jewish melodic and harmonic materials with the European classical-romantic tradition. Championed by such conductors as Koussevitzky, Stokowski, and Monteux, his compositions reflect two principal ethnic-historical musical sources: the motifs, rhythms and sonorities of American Indian culture and the biblical, liturgical and rabbinical wellsprings of his Judaic heritage, which would eventually dominate his creative life.

Included on this CD are three instrumental works of Jewish inspiration: the Cello Concerto, an introspective work inspired by the Book of Psalms;
Read more Hagiographa: Three Biblical Narratives for Piano and String Quartet, a rhapsodic evocation of three major biblical personalities; and Two Pieces in Sabbath Mood, an orchestral tone poem that depicts the spiritual qualities of the Sabbath in Jewish life and tradition. Also heard are two liturgical pieces: excerpts from the Sabbath Evening Service, a restrained setting for baritone and a cappella chorus that was commissioned by New York’s Temple Emanu-El; and Ahavat Olam, an independent setting of the Sabbath evening prayer for cantor and choir that is infused with echoes of traditional cantorial chant.

Click here to view all available releases in the Milken Archive Series at ArkivMusic.

R E V I E W S:

The opening of Frederick Jacobi’s Cello Concerto will take your breath away. It is one of those instantly memorable, drop-dead gorgeous beginnings—like Fauré’s Elégie for cello and orchestra—that will have you asking yourself, “Who is this composer and where has he been all my life?” Well, it turns out that for the last several years of my life, Jacobi has been hiding on a shelf in my own library. His 1932 Cello Concerto, aka “Three Psalms for Cello and Orchestra,” has been filed away in my personal collection on a CRI disc containing a program of other works by Jacobi, including the here-recorded Hagiographa. Which leads to the inevitable question, “How memorable can it be if I didn’t remember I had it?”

The answer to that question may seem a bit of a cop-out, but I think it has to do with the fact that beautiful as this music is—and it is—it is also highly derivative of a number of other higher profile composers. The three-movement Cello Concerto, for example, though mostly a quiet, contemplative work, inevitably calls to mind associations with Bloch’s Schelomo (though it is nowhere near as cinematic), and even Dvo?ák’s Cello Concerto. Or, as the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music press release has it, “Jacobi’s style is marked by broad, melodic lyricism, often infused or contrasted with a sophisticated sense of drama that is personal and restrained, rather than overtly theatrical.” Not surprisingly, Jacobi studied with Bloch and Rubin Goldmark.

Frederick Jacobi (1891–1952) was a native San Franciscan of German-Jewish descent. Though not of a religious upbringing or traditional Jewish background, his interest in his cultural heritage was likely kindled by a commission he received in 1930 from Lazare Saminsky of New York’s Temple Emanu-El to provide a setting of the Sabbath Eve Service. He was also equally interested, however, in the authentic music of America’s southwest native tribes, and in the 1920s (like Bartók before him), Jacobi spent time among Pueblo and Navajo populations in Arizona and New Mexico, recording their indigenous rhythms, melodies, and sonorities. Much of this research found its way into his concert works.

Jacobi was an unapologetic and unrepentant romantic, and all of the pieces on this disc are marked by the broad, melodic lyricism noted above. “Mi khamokha” (the first of the four excerpts from the Sabbath Evening Service), an exquisitely simple yet intensely moving piece for baritone (Patrick Mason) surrounded by chorus, could be a not-too-distant cousin of the Sanctus from Berlioz’s Requiem. Hagiographa is, to all extents and purposes, a piano quintet. It can be listened to and appreciated as such without knowing that each of its three quite substantial movements is titled, respectively, “Job,” “Ruth,” and “Joshua.”

Ahavat olam is another of Cantor David Putterman’s commissions for liturgical music at New York’s Park Avenue Synagogue. Jacobi composed it in 1945. It is written in the style of traditional cantorial pieces for solo cantor and chorus. Brief as it is (just over three minutes), it ends with a most beautiful benedictory Amen. Two Pieces in Sabbath Mood, like Hagiographa, can be listened to as purely abstract music. Its two movements, “Kaddish” and “Oneg Shabbat,” are purely orchestral, and could be described as a tone poem.

If you love wonderfully rich romantic musical tapestries, tinged with ethnic (Jewish and native American) melodies and harmonies, Jacobi is a composer well worth exploring. I can recommend this Naxos release over the aforementioned CRI, not only because the performances and sound are better, but because the CRI contains only instrumental works, whereas the current release presents a nice cross-section and balance among instrumental, choral, and orchestral pieces. Very nice indeed.

Jerry Dubins, FANFARE
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Works on This Recording

Psalms (3) for Cello and Orchestra "Concerto for Cello" by Frederick Jacobi
Performer:  Alban Gerhardt (Cello)
Conductor:  Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Barcelona Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1932 
Hagiographa by Frederick Jacobi
Conductor:  Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1938; USA 
Pieces (2) in Sabbath Mood by Frederick Jacobi
Conductor:  Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1946; USA 
Sabbath Evening Service by Frederick Jacobi
Performer:  Robert Bloch (Baritone)
Conductor:  Joseph Cullen
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Chorus,  New York Cantorial Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: USA 
Language: Hebrew 
Notes: Composition written: USA (1930 - 1931). 

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