David Jalbert

John Adams: China Gates; Phrygian Gates; Philip Glass: Orphée Suite

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Canadian pianist David Jalbert presents a really attractive program of solo pieces by American composers associated with minimalism. John Adams' China Gates and Phrygian Gates, both from 1977, are almost inevitably paired on CDs and in recital. They are among Adams' earliest mature works, but they have become established as classics of late 20th century American piano literature. Running about five minutes, China Gates is a shimmering miniature whose luminescence foreshadows the quietly ecstatic radiance and transparency of the composer's Common Tones in Simple Time and Light Over Water, written not long after. Jalbert captures the rippling magic of the score in a performance of unusual delicacy and flexibility. Phrygian Gates lasts about 25 minutes and is a more complex piece, covering a more varied emotional terrain, and Jalbert conveys its shifting moods and colors with sensitivity and nuance. His is the first recording of the Philip Glass' Orphée Suite for Piano, transcriptions of scenes from the 1991 opera Orphée made by Paul Barnes. The opera includes some of the composer's most compelling and deeply felt music, and it works beautifully in this arrangement. The seven movements are musically and emotionally varied, from the jaunty dance of the opening to the wrenchingly romantic Orphée and the Princess to the bittersweet tenderness of the closing. Jalbert shows real feeling for Glass' aesthetic and plays with intensity and supple passion. The music itself and the refinement of the performance should dispel any stereotypical notion of Glass as a motoric and mechanical composer and are evidence of how achingly expressive he can be. These expert performances should delight fans of the two composers and fans of new piano music. Atma's sound is clear and present, if a little on the bright side.

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