Jeffrey Jacob's Heads Into the Woods
Sequoias: The Music of Jeffrey Jacob Jeffrey Jacob, piano; Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra/Stanislav Vavrinek Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra/Daniel Spalding The New England Quartet Navona 6411 Total Time: 59:18 Recording: ****/**** Performance: ****/****
Navona has released several albums of music by pianist/composer Jeffrey Jacob A couple years ago, Navona released an album featuring music by Jeffrey Jacob. The current release introduces a full-length symphony, a chamber orchestra piece, as well as music for solo piano and string quartet. It provides a cross section overview of Jacob’s style.
In earlier releases, Jacob’s music has a blend of post-minimalism with touches of romanticism. This helps the music communicate quite well with contemporary audiences and invites the in to the sound worlds he creates. The Symphony No. 6 (“Sequoias”) is a four-movement work for piano and orchestra. The opening “The Forest Awakens” has an impressionistic quality furthered by a 5-note motivic idea that floats through the ethereal textures. A darker, more intense second movement (“Under Siege”) shifts into more angular writing with brief solo colors sprinkled through the winds as long, string ideas move urgently through the texture. Most interesting is the way the rhythmic ideas help push the music forward in what is a somewhat languid tempo. “Meditation” is scored for strings and piano and adds a further reflective atmosphere that gives way to the final movement, “Moist Stars”. Here the contrapuntal writing of the previous movement takes further shape as everything builds with dialogue between the orchestra. All dies away to nothing as we settle back in for the evening. The piece feels more like a piano concerto than a symphony as the piano is quite prominent throughout. That aside, it is a work filled with gorgeous orchestral color and musical imagery.
As composer-in-residence, Jacob created a number of pieces for the Philadelphia Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra which joins him to perform his Music for Strings, Percussion, and Oboe. An obvious nod to a closely-named Bartok work, Jacob’s explores angular lines and foreign scale constructions in two movements that provide a contrast of intensity and reflection respectively. It has an almost Gothic mystery quality.
The natural world that informs most of the works here continues into the Two Piano Pieces which are again exploring sonorities and ideas that are found in the other works on the album. The evocativeness of his music is quite evident even here. The album closes off with the String Quartet No. 2 is also a two-m ovement piece that continues in the pattern of tension and intensity in the first movement followed by a relaxation and reflection.
Each of the works here illustrates how Jacobs structures his music into these contrasting pairs. The symphony somewhat does this in a mirror image. His music has at times a cinematic quality with long, lyrical lines that slowly build against a variety of rhythmic interjections and colors. The piano is central to adding a little additional color and often floats around the texture. The music is quite beautiful and can be quite entrancing. The performances here are all quite good. The piano tends to be a bit forward in the sound picture which has been the case in some of the earlier works the label has released. Sequoias is available in both digital and physical formats and will run on most streaming platforms.