"Jalbert is an inspired composer. Everything he writes sounds inevitable." —Philadelphia Inquirer
"The piece revealed powerful command of the orchestra and a vivid emotional range. In Aeternam made a listener eager to hear more." —San Francisco Chronicle
"an acknowledged chamber-music master." —The New Yorker
"Pierre Jalbert's music immediately captures one's attention with its strong gesture and vitality. Rich in instrumental color and harmonically engaging, its narrative is dramatically compelling yet always logical in its flow. In the orchestral Chamber Symphony, big sky, and Fire and Ice, and in numerous chamber compositions, he synthesizes an array of current musical resources into bold, deeply satisfying, personal statements that surprise and delight." —American Academy of Arts and Letters
"Jalbert's compositions inhabit a complex multi-hued, spiritual territory, hovering between tonal and atonal." —Frederick Noonan
"L'œil écoute (The Eye Listens) gave the audience much to think about. Like every other piece of Jalbert I've heard, L'œil écoute is a pleasure to hear because the strong profile of its materials is handled with lucidity and rhythmic vitality." —Pittsburgh Tribune
"Pierre Jalbert's "In Aeternam" (Forever) was the most poignant work on the program. And the most beautiful, as well it should be, for it is a memorial to the composer's niece, who died at birth. The work often is dreamy in a melancholy way, sometimes austere, never maudlin and quiet." —Seattle Post-Intellinger
"Jalbert's score (The Invention of the Saxophone) is sublime, with virtuosi turns for the saxophone, which assumes the lead voice with the piano. It's a colorful work that pulsates with dramatic exclamations from the saxophone and comforting support from the piano….Jalbert has you all but forget your notions about the sax's dominant role in jazz. He redefines the instrument as a powerful voice in classical music, with superbly controlled phrases that don't wander into jazz's improvisational waters. But Jalbert doesn't rob the sax of its sex appeal…." —Arizona Daily Star
"…a soulful violin solo, floats through a dreamy passage, and emerges into a galloping anxiety. Jalbert said he wrote the piece with the performers in mind - a gesture the players reciprocated with generous exactitude and high spirit." —Philadelphia Inquirer
" … a sprawling, dramatic work rippling with colors… As for showing off the orchestra, it did that exceptionally, giving each section (most notably the percussion) a thorough workout." —The New York Times (on big sky, performed at Carnegie Hall by the Houston Symphony)
"The program opened with "Les espaces infinis," a moody, lovely 10-minute meditation by former composer-in-residence Pierre Jalbert. The piece opens and closes with slow, sweet-toned clouds of string harmonies, punctuated in Mahlerian fashion by the harp. In between, these clouds coalesce into an emotionally charged upwelling before dissipating again, creating a simple, satisfying arc. The performance was aptly tender and sensitive." —Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle (California Symphony, Barry Jekowsky, conductor)
"The centerpiece of this program was Jalbert's moody and engrossing Les espaces infinis… The piece, which begins and ends quietly, but achieves a resonant climax at its center, holds the listener through a canny blend of instrumental colors and combinations, chromatic but not dissonant, and ultimately pleasing." — Los Angeles Times
"The final piece, Pierre Jalbert's Trio, deserves to be heard more often. From the vigorous attack through two tightly focused movements, violin passages buzz and return, sustaining a threatening mood by clashing with tolling piano chords. In the end, the calm piano beacons through the chaos." —Washington Post
"Among the festival's most impressive works were Pierre Jalbert's Piano Trio…" —Boston Herald (reviewing Tanglewood's Festival of Contemporary Music)
"If Pierre Jalbert were a baseball player, he'd be batting 1.000 by now. The California Symphony's Young American Composer-in-Residence unveiled his latest work for the orchestra Sunday Evening at the Regional Center for the Arts, and he's given the world another winner. Not even Barry Bonds is that consistent." —Contra Costa Times
" Jalbert shows superb craftsmanship combined with an imaginative mind… Here's hoping we hear much more from him." —New Music Connoisseur
"Pierre Jalbert's "Visual Abstract," for all seven PNME instrumentalists, was a virtual symphony, with lush strains, layers and contrasts. Conducted by Kevin Noe, the piece continually churned with propulsive and vibrant music, again seeming to expand out beyond its actual orchestration." —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"...the 2008 String Quartet No. 4 of Pierre Jalbert, an increasingly prominent American composer on the Rice University faculty,...proved an appealing and dramatic four-movement essay in modernist gestures." —The Dallas Morning News
FURTHER REVIEWS AND FEATURE ARTICLES
Baltimore Sun, 1/25/08
"Fast-forwarding from 1784 to 2004, the program continues with Pierre Jalbert's Icefield Sonnets. In 2007, Jalbert received the prestigious Stoeger Award from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for achievements in chamber music, and this fresh, dynamic piece leaves little doubt as to why. Jalbert uses luminous colors and propulsive rhythms to represent three poems by Anthony Hawley, titled "Cold is a cell," "Glass is a place," and "North is a notion."
New Orleans Times-Picayune, 1/12/08
"Would Chopin and Tchaikovsky have enjoyed the music of Pierre Jalbert? Or would they have felt a trifle upstaged? Those long dead titans shared a bill with the Houston-based composer when his electrifying Chamber Symphony had a New Orleans premiere last weekend.
"Jalbert gave [conductor Rebecca] Miller plenty to work with in the course of a 28-minute performance. He unleashed a battery of percussion and some shimmering bowed sounds that soared into the high wailing territory generally reserved for Theremins and electric guitars. His bounding rhythms owed something to jazz (as transmuted by Stravinsky and Bernstein) and also to the trance-inducing, ritual clatter of gamelan orchestras (as re-imagined by Lou Harrison, Anthony Davis, Marc Mellits and other out-of-the-mainstream composers).
"Jalbert's effects could be ethereal — as when he'd launch a long, sustained note with a clang from the chimes, carry it forward with the full orchestra and let the note slowly diminish as the strings dropped out, leaving a few wind instruments to trail into silence.
"And he could be heartfelt, too. In the ethereal second movement, he conjured a rich melody of lament from the viola section, drew the other strings into the action and then unfurled an oboe line as beguiling as the Asian-inspired pentatonic melodies of Debussy."
The New York Sun, 1/26/06
"Although it might seem a bit precious to insist on all lower-case letters in the title of your composition, Pierre Jalbert, a transplanted New Englander now teaching composition at Rice University in Houston, fashioned a colorful tone poem based on his impressions of the physical universe that is Texas. I heard less of e.e. cummings and more of Roy Harris in big sky, but was pleased with the palette of tonal hues on display. Indeed, the writing was evocative of clouds and storms, alternating grandeur with celestial peace.
"Mr. Jalbert is even willing to explore tonality as an aesthetic device, and he infused this writing for full orchestra with a decidedly American sonority reminiscent of the largely forgotten wind ensemble repertoire. The orchestra produced a powerful and disciplined sound with only a hint of raggedness. Mr. Jalbert was on hand to receive a well-deserved ovation."
Houston Chronicle, 1/6/06
"When the Houston Symphony asked Pierre Jalbert for a piece to take to Carnegie Hall, the Vermont-born composer thought about a trip to the Big Bend. What is it about the southwest that the Houston Symphony could take to New York with them?' the Rice University professor asked himself.
"Memories of his visit to the national park last year provided Jalbert (pronounced with a hard t) the inspiration for big sky, which music director Hans Graf and the orchestra will premiere in Houston next weekend…. The symphony will then take the piece to Carnegie Hall on Jan. 24, where it will open their first New York concert in eight years.
"Commissions are the lifeblood of composers; they almost guarantee live performances. And this commission was especially juicy. Houston Symphony artistic administrator Aurelie Desmarais had heard Jalbert's name in keeping up with trends in the orchestra world, and conductor/pianist Jeffrey Kahane prompted her to take a serious look at the composer's music…
Desmarais asked for scores. She and music director Hans Graf settled on Les espaces infinis (The Infinite Spaces), written for the Albany Symphony Orchestra, which champions new American music. The Houston Symphony played it in February 2004.
Les espaces infinis "really clicked" with Graf, Desmarais says. So when they started thinking about a commission for Carnegie Hall, they approached Jalbert. Graf and Desmarais wanted something "celebratory" that would also show off the orchestra. "Pierre thought he could do it," she says. He began active work on the commission in June 2005, and completed it in November.
"Recalling his experiences with Big Bend, Jalbert remembered a sky that seemed to go on forever." He didn't want to just paint a sonic picture. So mused, How does the environment seem when you're standing in an area like that? The infiniteness of it?'"
The huge physical expanse dovetailed with the large orchestra he could use in the new work. For Les espaces infinis, the Albany Symphony had given him a chamber orchestra with only one trumpet. The Houston Symphony offered full brass — three trumpets and trombones plus tuba — and three percussionists. With a sound that big, he really could suggest "the largeness of space."
But at the same time, Jalbert notes, when you're standing in a wide-open place like Big Bend, "you feel very small, almost alone." That feeling suggested slow music, almost frozen in time. There he could also write solos for principal players.
In big sky, Jalbert honored in spirit Graf's suggestion that he include a quotation from a work by Mozart, whose 250th birthday will fall this year. Snuck into the violas' music in measures 156-157 — there are 247 — is a quote from the Mozart concert aria Bella mia fiamma, addio! At Carnegie Hall, soprano Barbara Bonney will sing that piece immediately after big sky.
Houston Chronicle (online), 1/12/08
"Based on the Hans Christian Anderson story Thumbelina, [String Quartet No. 3] began as a piece for string quartet and narrator. But the commissioning ensemble, the Maia Quartet at the University of Iowa, also wanted a straightforward concert piece. Jalbert, who teaches at RIce's Shepherd School of Music, compressed the narrative into a long single movement and added the brief Prelude and Finale to frame it.
"The Prelude seemed a somewhat random collection of musical nuggets - a crescendo on a single chord, a glissando, a sigh downward, etc. As the middle movement progressed, it became clear that in the Prelude Jalbert laid out musical ideas he exploited in the long central portion, Scherzo in 15 scenes.'
"It began with a melody directly reminiscent of the style of Leos Janacek, but Jalbert soon added some syncopation that tightened and heightened the rhythm impact. That energy, plus many of the ideas from the Prelude, reappeared often during the short scenes.
"As the Maia laid them out, an uncanny sense of aesthetic shape began to emerge. Jalbert knew just when to cut off one segment and began a new one. That was best seen at the end when he built the energy and intensity to the tautest levels and then signed off the movement with simply an additional wisp of music."[ top ]