Composer John Adams has called the two piano pieces China Gates and Phrygian Gates "my opus ones,... my first coherent statements in a new language". Written in 1977 and 1978, they have a theoretical framework as complex as Schoenberg's or Bach's, but they sound completely organic, as if produced by some natural process.
Adams calls Phrygian Gates "a behemoth of sorts". The work requires a pianist gifted with significant technical abilities, in much the same way as Liszt's B minor Sonata or Villa-Lobos's Rudepoema. Such skills are on display in David Jalbert's fine new recording from Canada's ATMA label. He has the dexterity to manage Adams' separate-hand waves (a much more complicated and more musical version of patting your head and rubbing your stomach), and he can turn on a dime when Adams abruptly shifts modes, as a gate (analogous to logic gates in computers) changes its state. As well, he has the stamina to dilineate Adams' architecture built from long arches of sound. China Gates uses similar ideas but is much less complex. It has a delicacy that the larger piece doesn't have, and Jalbert brings out plenty of beauty from this simplicity.
The Orphee Suite by Philip Glass was transcribed for piano by Paul Barnes, based on Glass's 1991 chamber opera, which was inspired by the great 1950 film by Jean Cocteau. Jalbert's version of this dramatic music is preferable to Barnes' own recording, released on Orange Mountain in 2003. It seems to me more incisive, less sentimental. As well, the ATMA disc has exceptional sound.
David Jalbert's 2008 recording of the Shostakovitch Preludes and Fugues is a favourite of mine. It was, quite rightly, very well received, and this new disc should bring similar praise.
Submitted on 10/20/10 by Dean Frey
Adams and Glass
Canadian pianist David Jalbert plays three works for solo piano by John Adams and Philip Glass, two living composers that have greatly influenced the musical landscape of American contemporary music. When John Adams composed China Gates and Phrygian Gates in the 1970s, he resided in northern California near the Pacific Ocean. Adams was inspired by the natural movement of water, and his fascination for the modulating waveforms is the basis for the two works featured on this recording. Philip Glass’ Orphée Suite for Piano is based on his own chamber opera of 1991, which was in turn inspired by Jean Cocteau’s 1950 film, Orphée. The work was transcribed for piano by Paul Barnes in 2000 and premiered in New York City in 2001.
Submitted on 11/19/10 by JAMES R. OESTREICH, The New York Times