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Jeffrey JACOB (b.1948)
At the Still Pointa
Symphony No.2 (1996)b
De Profundis (1996)c
Piano Concerto No.1 (1991)d
Jeffrey Jacob (piano)d; Moscow Symphony Orchestraa; Orquesta de Baja Californiab; Chamber Orchestra of the Rhinec; St. Petersburg Academic Philharmonicd; Joel Spiegelmana, Eduardo Garcia Barriosb, Heiner Frostc, Alexander Titovd
Recorded: Moscow Radio Studios, January 1994 (At the Still Point); Centro Cultural Tijuana, Mexico, June 1996 (Symphony No.2); Stadthalle, Rees, Germany, May 1996 and St. Petersburg Radio Studios, April 1993 (Piano Concerto No.1)
CENTAUR CRC 2346 [64:05]

 

Jeffrey Jacob may be better-known as a brilliant pianist and a dedicated, untiring champion of contemporary piano music. He was one of the pianists playing Francis Routh’s piano music on REDCLIFFE RR 018 reviewed here some time ago. He is also a composer of no mean achievement as the works recorded here clearly demonstrate. These works date from the last fifteen years or so, though we are not told when At the Still Point has been composed. We are told, however, that this piece was originally written as the first movement of Jacob’s second piano concerto and that the composer decided to let it stand as a separate composition. (The title, you guess it, is taken from Eliot’s Four Quartets.) This short, predominantly dreamy piece does stand on its own quite well indeed. The music, economically scored for medium-sized forces, is quite engaging and has a somewhat nostalgic ring. The scoring displays many fine orchestral and instrumental touches that we come to regard as Jacob hallmarks, with – for example – a liking for tingling sonorities and a generous use of chimes. Another characteristic in this and the other pieces is the presence of the piano, which often plays a concertante role here as well as in the Second Symphony and De Profundis.

The Symphony No.2 was written for the Orquesta of Baja California and their director Eduardo Garcia Barrios who conducted the first performance in 1996. It is in three movements of which the first one Allegro maestoso, roughly in sonata form, is the most developed. It opens in an arresting way with some considerable energy. The slower, chamber-like section (almost a piano trio) follows. The whole is recapitulated with variations. The slow movement is mostly song-like and includes a tune inspired, so says the composer, by the song The Beauty and the Beast by Alan Mencken for the Disney film... The third movement caps this concise work with an energetic Finale ending with a brilliant fanfare.

According to the composer, De Profundis for piano and strings was written at a time of extreme personal crisis. Which may not be quite evident, when listening to it. He nevertheless goes on saying that "[I] wanted to express a ‘cry out of the depths’, but with a quiet restraint and dignity". In this respect, he has been quite successful. The music is quite similar to that of At the Still Point, with much busy piano writing (too much so for some tastes, I am afraid).

Finally, the Piano Concerto No.1, completed in 1991 and first performed the following year in St. Petersburg, is also in three movements : a sonata form Allegro energico, a song-like slow movement and a Rondo-like final movement. This was, it seems, Jacob’s first orchestral work. If so, it may be said that he had a clear view of what he wanted to achieve, for this colourful and well-made work obviously breathes the same air and displays some considerable orchestral mastery as the other later pieces in this disc.

Jeffrey Jacob’s music is quite attractive, colourful, tuneful, with many fine instrumental touches. Fairly straightforward, honest music making by all counts. The recordings, presumably of live performances, are all quite satisfying. Well worth investigating.

Hubert Culot

 



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