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“Sonatas for Piano with Violin”
Hyacinthe Jadin: Three Sonatas, opus 1: n° 1 in D, n° 2 in B‑Flat, n° 3 in F minor [1, 2] – Three Sonatas, opus 3: n° 1 in E‑Flat, n° 2 in G minor, n° 3 in C [1, 3] – Three Quartets: n° 1 in B‑Flat, n° 2 in A, n° 3 in F minor [1, 2]

Marek Toporowski [1] (piano), Zofia Wojniakiewicz [2], Robert Bachara [3] (violin)
Recording: Center for Jewish Culture, Kraków, Poland (March 14‑15, 2022), & Aula Opata Marcina Bialobrzeskiego, Klasztor OO.Cystersów, Kraków-Mogila, Poland (February 26‑28, 2023) – 152’22
Brilliant Classics BRI97065 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Booklet in English

Having recently spent some time with the four surviving symphonies of Etienne Méhul, all composed around 1810, I turned to this recording in curiosity about French music between the late Baroque verging on the Rococo and late Classical verging on early Romanticism. As for the Baroque perspective on Jadin, the description of the works at hand as “sonatas for piano with violin” evokes Rameau’s Pièces de clavecin en concerts, the wonderfully fresh and melodious collection of keyboard suites with accompaniments that, while optional, are elaborate enough to make for genuine chamber music. Not so with Jadin, who mostly limits his violinist to providing occasional color contrasts, according to the notes a common practice with piano sonatas in the late 18th century; there is no violin part at all in the slow movement of the third Opus 3 Sonata. As for the late Classical perspective, what is most immediately striking about Jadin as compared to Méhul is the former’s more memorable thematic profile; the Méhul symphonies have their merits, but they tend to be short on good melodic ideas.

Jadin, however, is no mere tunesmith, nor does he inhabit a stylistic world with any clear connection to Rameau. He is solidly in the realm of the first great flowering of the First Viennese School—and amazingly, given his age when composing these works (late teens and early twenties; he would die of tuberculosis at twenty‑four in 1800), at their best they reflect a mastery of the sonata form of Haydn and Mozart: striking yet succinct main themes, rigorously developed; harmonic variety and contrast in the service of forward motion, rather than for mere color as often with the Romantics; a sense of drama emerging gradually and organically from the basic material. Discovering this music was, for me, like discovering the quartets of Arriaga, born just after Jadin’s death but even shorter‑lived: like Arriaga, Jadin had so internalized his day’s classical style as a teenager that one can only wonder in dismay where a lifespan and career of even Mozartian length may have led.

Jadin was 17 when he composed his Opus 1, and, perhaps, the Opus 3 of four years later shows the advance one might expect; but even if the material of the earlier work is at times less inspired or more awkward, there are wonderful touches and the sense of an assured hand throughout, even if, as I tentatively offer, the Sonata Opus 3, n° 3 in C major, is the greatest single work here, whose slow movement (previously mentioned) is especially moving. Jadin is perhaps at his most distinctive stylistically in minuets, especially in a minor key: that of the Sonata Opus 1, n° 3 in F minor, strikes an effective balance between gravitas and foreboding: somewhat in the vein Beethoven occasionally found but very much its own thing, and that of the Sonata Opus 1, n° 1 contains some particularly interesting dissonances. These places bring to mind what Beethoven praised Handel for, an ability to create great effects using simple means. Jadin has no empty or virtuosic show, or hardly any; and his most inspired pages have a quiet dignity and subtlety.

If most of the works on this program are essentially piano sonatas with a touch of fiddle, the last three are string quartets the composer himself recast into the accompanied-piano form. If I am reading the notes correctly, these date in their original form from between the Opus 1 and the Opus 3 Sonatas, and they do not seem to achieve as much depth of expression as Opus 3, although the third quartet is cast in an unusual three‑movement structure, concluding with a polonaise and featuring another distinctive minor‑key minuet. Perhaps these works have a greater effect in their proper quartet guise, in which I am now keen to hear them. But even in keyboard form, they (like Opus 1) give plenty to enjoy.

Throughout the program, Marek Toporowski, playing on a modern fortepiano, is sensitive to the music and never unduly hasty or reticent. The alternating violinists have little to do, but do it pleasingly on what sound to me like gut strings; the notes only indicate that Zofia Wojniakiewicz plays a 17th‑century instrument. The sonatas proper have been recorded without violin accompaniment, on both modern piano and fortepiano it seems; and probably the quartets are best heard in their original guise; but if the instrumental setting in this new Brilliant Classics recording appeals, the program offers an appealing and well-realized selection of music by a composer absolutely worth the time of anyone interested in rare Classical gems. Buyers of the physical CDs should note that the Sonata Opus 3, n° 2 is split between the two well‑filled discs, which could have been avoided (while keeping each opus together) if the quartets were programmed between the Opus 1 and Opus 3 Sonatas rather than at the end.

Samuel Wigutow




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