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Bach: Goldberg Variations / David Jalbert

Bach / Jalbert
Release Date: 03/27/2012 
Label:  Atma Classique   Catalog #: 2557   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  David Jalbert
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Canadian pianist David Jalbert tackles Bach's Goldberg Variations in a new ATMA recording. Critics have already praised his interpretation of this masterpiece in concerts.

Recorded last June at Palais Montcalm in Québec City, the Goldberg Variations marks a milestone in the career of this celebrated young pianist. Jalbert’s previous ATMA recordings — John Adams - Philip Glass/Piano Music; L'héritage Beethoven with Louis-Philippe Marsolais, horn; and Shostakovich/24 Preludes & Fugues, Op. 87 — have been met with accolades and awards.

R E V I E W S:

BACH Goldberg Variations Read more class="ARIAL12"> David Jalbert (pn) ATMA 2557 (76:46)

At last, a Goldberg Variations I can recommend with unbridled enthusiasm. Such has not been the case for recent versions I’ve reviewed, two or three of which sorely disappointed. If you happen to be looking for a new piano version of the piece, this is it, practically guaranteed.

Not only does David Jalbert observe repeats, but to each repeat he adds the most imaginative and bewitching embellishments I believe I’ve ever heard. Celebrated harpsichordist and period-practice scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick might raise an eyebrow to Jalbert’s decorations, but they are so infectious and breathe such enlivenment into the music that once you’ve heard them you’ll never want to hear the piece again without them.

In Fanfare 30:1, Adrian Corleonis hated Jalbert’s rendering of Fauré’s nocturnes, a disc I haven’t heard, but in 27:6, Paul Ingram, reviewing Jalbert in a program of works by Corigliano and Rzewski, called the pianist’s playing “remarkable for its sweep, confidence, sensitivity, power, and color.” I haven’t heard that CD either, but based on Jalbert’s current Goldberg Variations , I’d have to side with Ingram.

A native of Quebec, the now 35-year-old Jalbert graduated from the University of Montreal, earned an artist diploma from Juilliard, where he studied with Jerome Lowenthal, and then continued his studies with Leon Fleisher, among others, at the Glenn Gould School. While Jalbert’s discography reflects a strong interest in 20th-century and contemporary music with recordings of works by Shostakovich, Adams, Glass, and the above-mentioned Corigliano and Rzewski, he has also recorded the Fauré nocturnes Corleonis reviewed, a disc of works by Beethoven and his contemporaries—Czerny, Moscheles, and Ries—and with horn player Louis-Philippe Marsolais a program of works by Schumann, Lachner, and Franz Strauss.

It’s Jalbert’s predilection for contemporary music, I believe, that informs his Bach. This isn’t to imply that he goes off on some psychedelic jazz trip, like Dan Tepfer in a recent account reviewed in Fanfare 35:5, or that he gives us the Goldberg Variations as seen through some modern revisionist’s prism. To the contrary, Jalbert’s approach to Bach’s iconic score strikes me as being one that’s informed by a most careful consideration and painstaking study of the work to thoroughly absorb its contents and style, after which a comprehensive knowledge of the piece enables the pianist to give rein to his own expressive freedoms. Only the most profound understanding of Bach’s mental processes in composing the Goldberg Variations permits the kind of liberties Jalbert takes with his embellishments, which is why they sound so perfectly of a piece with the music.

Beyond the embellishments is a performance of the work so alive, dynamic, invigorating, and emotionally fulfilling that if played this way by Goldberg for his insomniac patron it would have been sure to aggravate the Count’s condition rather than cure it. This is one Goldberg Variations that won’t put you to sleep, rest assured. Very strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins


There’s much to admire in the singing directness that Jalbert brings to the minor-key variations, not to mention his unflagging rhythmic solidity in movements involving crossed hands in lieu of the harpsichord’s double keyboard. What is more, Jalbert’s subtle shifts in voicing and dynamics do not draw attention to themselves, and wear well over the course of repeated hearings. His achievement ranks far and beyond many of his better known digital-era piano Goldberg competitors. Atma provides marvelous, naturally resonant, and tonally alluring sonics.

-- Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com [5/7/2012]
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Works on This Recording

Goldberg Variations, BWV 988 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  David Jalbert (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1741-1742; Nuremberg, Germany 

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