Release Date: October 14, 2014
Catalog #: NV5974
Format: Digital & Physical
21st Century
Chamber
Orchestral
Orchestra
String Quartet

Darkness To Light

The Music Of Jeffrey Jacob

Jeffrey Jacob composer

The London Symphony Orchestra | Daniel Spalding conductor; Jeffrey Jacob piano
The New England String Quartet | Julia Okrusko violin; Klaudia Szlachta violin; Lilit Muradyan viola; Ming-Hui Lin cello
Hradec Králové Philharmonic | Jon Mitchell conductor
The Moscow Symphony | Joel Spiegelman conductor
The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra | Toshiyuki Shimada conductor

Occasionally, moments of happiness and comfort can rise from experiences of anxiety and doubt, during which we learn about ourselves and our limits. Composer and pianist Jeffrey Jacob depicts the experiences of struggle and pain, and of triumph and joy on his debut Navona Records release DARKNESS TO LIGHT.

Death and Transfiguration (Symphony No. 3), a contemporary version of Richard Strauss’s tone poem, expresses the emotions of a dying man, who, fearing death, later finds exaltation in it. String Quartet No. 2 and Elegy portray turmoil, the former showing the defeat of inner darkness, and the latter referencing the violent conflict between Israel and Palestine. The short and lyrical piece Adagietto Misterioso builds tension to illustrate feelings of nostalgia and transitoriness, while Symphony No. 1 presents ideas about timelessness, taken from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. Through his music, Jacob discusses the vulnerable moments of human existence and how through our vulnerability, we can open ourselves to growth toward a brighter perspective.

Currently Artist-in-Residence at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame IN, Jeffrey Jacob received degrees from the Juilliard School and the Peabody Conservatory. Recently, he has received the Artist of the Year Award from the International New Music Consortium at New York University for his work as composer, pianist, and educator.

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Artist Information

Jeffrey Jacob

Jeffrey Jacob

Composer

Jeffrey Jacob is described by the Warsaw Music Journal as “unquestionably one of the greatest performers of 20th century music,” and the New York Times as “an artist of intense concentration and conviction.” He received his education from the Juilliard School (Master of Music) and the Peabody Conservatory (Doctorate) and counts Mieczysław Munz, Carlo Zecchi, and Leon Fleisher as his principal teachers.

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Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra

Orchestra

The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra is one of the foremost and oldest symphony orchestras in the Czech Republic. It is based in the historical capital of Moravia, the city of Olomouc, and has been a leader of music activities in the region for the past 70 years. Its artistic development was directly influenced by distinguished figures from the Czech and international music scene.

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Notes

This work for piano and full orchestra was completed in the fall of 2008. One of my favorite orchestral works is the tone poem of the same name by Richard Strauss. As he was completing the work, Strauss asked his friend, the poet, Alexander Ritter to write a poem expressing the “program” and sentiment of the music. For many years I thought it would be fascinating for a 20th or 21st century composer to write a contemporary version with the same program and accompanying poem. I was unable to interest any of my composer friends in the project so, after much hesitation, I decided to undertake the work myself.

Strauss, with his consummate mastery of orchestration, has brilliantly evoked specific scenes and events of the program: A man lies on his deathbed; he struggles in vain against his terminal illness. The salient features of his life pass before his eyes. He makes one last desperate attempt to regain consciousness, then dies and receives the longed-for transfiguration, in the poet’s words, “from the infinite reaches of heaven.”

I have attempted to express in the most general way, the overarching emotional content of each section (allowing myself only two orchestral devices of specificity: the dying man’s heartbeat and the tolling of bells). I have also divided the work into three separate movements, each with a specific abstract form. The first movement, “Dark, solemn, with dignity,” opens with the most serious and rigorous of older musical forms, a fugue scored for strings and oboe. A middle section suggesting struggle and confusion precedes a final return to the contrapuntal material of the opening. The second movement, “Delicately, lilting, graceful,” is comparable to a symphonic Scherzo in ternary form. It conveys the dying man’s emotional journey through the salient moments of his largely contented life. The last movement, “Dark, poignant, ecstatic, exalted,” adds one element to the original program: it opens with a section devoted to grieving for the man, now on the threshold of death. His transfiguration mirrors Strauss’ setting: the music slowly rises to a climax of great intensity and contrapuntal lyricism.

– Jeffrey Jacob

The String Quartet No. 2 was written at a time of depression and anxiety. The opening of both movements mirror struggles with inner darkness. At the same time, my good friend, the Spanish composer, Sebastian Marine’ sent me a beautiful album of his recent music entitled “LUX”, Light. I became obsessed with the abstract notion of struggling toward the LIGHT.

Each movement of the quartet breaks free of the weight of stress and anxiety and settles firmly into luminescence. Like all of my music, the String Quartet No. 2 emphasizes above all, melody and the interweaving of contrapuntal melodic lines. Therefore rhythm, harmony and other elements are relatively simple and sustained to allow full comprehension of melodic phrases.

– Jeffrey Jacob

Elegy was originally inspired by a specific tragedy that occurred several years ago during a period of intense violence between Israel and the Palestinians. On one particular day, I read that two children, one Israeli, the other, Palestinian, were killed at almost the same moment. The work is dedicated to these children. Elegy begins with a complex contrapuntal sonority falling gradually, inexorably, and punctuated by the lowest notes on the piano. The following piano cadenza presents a wall of A minor sound penetrated by short, declamatory melodic motives. Another contrapuntal section proceeds from mystery through turbulence to resolution. Finally, in an evocative recapitulation of the opening, the piano becomes a music box, its mechanically precise, upper register motives first accompany and later perform the original string melodies.

– Jeffrey Jacob

This short, nostalgic, lyrical work opens with a melodic passage for strings. The melodic and harmonic material then recedes into the background and becomes an accompanying ostinato for solo oboe and cello lines. The harmonies alternate between pure minor triads and Lydian sonorities; the inherent tension between these two generates a quiet forward motion and provides support for the introspective melodic lines-the essence of the composition. The work reaches a subdued but intense climax with strings in octaves accompanied by triadic arpeggiations in the piano and ends as quietly as it began.

– Jeffrey Jacob

This work was premiered by Raymond Leppard and the Indianapolis Symphony in 1992. It was revised for performances by the Portland Symphony and the Moravian Philharmonic; the latter orchestra recorded it. The subtitle of the work, “Winter Lightning” is taken from T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, specifically the poet’s celebrated enumeration of timeless moments and experiences.

The first movement opens with an extended cello solo accompanied by muted strings. In the following section, piano, percussion, and winds gradually add layers of sonority and counterpoint; the brass section brings the movement to a climax. The solo cello melody returns as part of a duet with the solo violin in its extreme upper register, and the movement ends quietly.

The second movement, “Allegro energico,” is in modified sonata form. It begins with short aggressive motives for piano and wind instruments above ostinato patterns in the strings. The tension dissipates as a second section emerges: shimmering wind and percussion sonorities accompanying long, lyrical lines in the violins. After a brief development the major themes of the exposition are recapitulated with considerable variation, and the work closes with a fanfare for brass and percussion.

– Jeffrey Jacob