QUATUOR FRANZ JOSEPH
Hyacinthe Jadin, Op. 1 String Quartets (ATMA)
First of all, you're forgiven if you thought Hyacinthe Jadin was a woman. You're also forgiven if you've never heard of this French composer, born into a family of Flemish musicians working in the court of Louis XVI and who came of age and died of tuberculosis (aged 24) during the First Republic. There are two dates cited for his birth, but the correct one likely is April 27, 1776.
Hyacinthe's more famous and longer-lived brother deserves brief mention in English-language reference texts, and Hyacinthe only rates a short mention in my Dictionnaire de la musique.
So you're forgiven, yet again, for thinking that there probably isn't much to appreciate. Wrong again.
Montreal period-instrument Quatuor Franz Joseph has been championing Jadin's string quartets for years. They recorded the first three (out of a total published output of 12) -- all dedicated to Joseph Haydn -- in 2008, but ATMA has only just released them.
In short, these four-movement pieces are gorgeous, and given their full due in muscular, engaging interpretations by the Quatuor.
This is music that would have been unusual, and likely not appreciated, in the France of 1795, the year this set of three quartets was published. They are written in a style closely reminiscent of Haydn's, featuring carefully elaborated musical subjects. The young Jadin was a devotee of Sturm und Drang expression, which was not the French way.
Public performances of chamber music did not really begin to happen until a generation after Jadin's death in 1800, so this was music for private consumption -- yet written for advanced players. This, and the fact that public life in France was a mess during the Directoire (which issued a new decimal-oriented calendar, among other wild things) means that Jadin, a prodigy who was among the first keybaord teachers hired at the founding of the Paris Conservatoire in 1795, was a victim of historical circumstance.
Thank goodness there are people like Quator Franz Joseph to right history's wrong. Click on the bold-face name of the performers at the top of the review to read and hear all about this wonderful album.
You can check out the scores in the Petrucci Music Library.
Veteran French pianist Jean-Claude Pennetier is a fan of Jadin's piano sonatas. Here he is at a fortepiano playing Sonata No. 4, in F-sharp minor, Op. 4 No. 2, which was published the same year as the three Haydn-dedicated quartets (this is from a Harmonia Mundi disc from the mid-1980s):