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Pierre JALBERT (b.1967)
Chamber Music

Trio for violin, cello and piano (1998) [15'37]
Kenneth Goldsmith (violin) Norman Fischer (cello) Jeanne Kierman (piano)
Toccata for piano solo (2001) [5'07]
Pierre Jalbert (piano)
Transcendental Windows for 12 players and conductor. (2000) [12'43]
Kenneth Goldsmith and Yen-Ping Lai (violins); James Dunham (viola); Norman Fischer (cello); Paul Ellison (double bass); Leone Buyse (flute); Kathleen Young (oboe); Michael Webster (clarinet); William Ver Meulen (horn); Jeffrey Robinson (bassoon); Paula Page (harp); Richard Brown (percussion); Larry Rachleff (conductor)
String Quartet (1995) [23'16]
Maia Quartet
Visual Abstract for 6 players and conductor (2002) [10'23]
Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble
No recording details
GASPARO GSCD 361 [67.48]


The American composer Pierre Jalbert, born in 1967, studied at Oberlin and the University of Pennsylvania. His works have been more and more widely disseminated and commissions and prizes have been forthcoming. British readers may remember the name because he won the 2001 BBC Masterprize Competition for In Aeternam. He is now Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

This disc covers a raft of his chamber compositions dating from 1995-2002. The Trio is in two movements and the first is abrasive, propulsive and full of drive. It takes in some Eastern European folk keening as well as some strong pizzicato-laced colour and moments that put me in mind of Jazz-meets-Le Revue de cuisine. The second, marked Agnus Dei has a pleading intimacy and a refined religiosity underlined by strongly reduced dynamics and a prayerful intensity that acts as a powerful contrast to the first movement. The Toccata takes nineteenth century digital fireworks and translates them for contemporary use. This is a translucent workout for the fingers and subtly colouristic as well, full of technical demands and matters of evenness and articulation. The composer shows us how it should be done in this recording. Transcendental Windows is written for twelve instruments and is cast in nine sections inspired by the stained glass windows of Louis Tiffany (which one can see on the booklet cover.) They’ve inspired Jalbert to a broadly symmetrical setting, starting and ending in contemplative, subtle reflection and reaching a moment of drama with repeated brass calls and syncopation The Flowing Waters comes mid-point, rippling and dulcet, and the whole piece is delightful and evocative.

The earliest of these chamber works is the 1995 Quartet and it’s the one I tend to find the least effective. In three movements and lasting twenty-three minutes it’s also the longest piece but the rasps and pizzicato fissures and ostinato power of the second movement sound only fitfully impressive. The most complete statement is the slow final movement, the longest, which wears a sustained threnody-like profile before some waspy rasps – ones that ran through the second movement – return to haunt it. Visual Abstract is, by contrast, the most recent composition, written in 2002 for the group that perform it here, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. Here Jalbert compresses a deal of material into three short movements; stasis informs the second but the third is made of sterner stuff. In its mix of percussion and flute/clarinet sonorities and subsequent pounding piano dramas this has the feel of the music for a 1960s TV cop show. Inventive and imaginative.

Performances sound thoroughly idiomatic and precise and the notes are very much to the point – and written by the composer.

Jonathan Woolf

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