String Quartet No. 5
Escher String Quartet
String Quartet No. 5
Pierre Jalbert (b.1967)
1. Prelude: Terra Incognita
2. Scherzo: Upheaval
3. Variations on Les Pèlerins
Escher String Quartet:
Adam Barnett-Hart, violin
Brendan Speltz, violin
Pierre Lapointe, viola
Brook Speltz, cello
This recording represents a long-standing relationship with the Escher Quartet. I first met the members of the quartet in 2008 when the Caramoor International Festival commissioned my 4th quartet for the Eschers as part of its String Quartet Library for the 21st century. This past year, we wanted to make a recording of my most recent string quartets, so we recorded my 4th, 5th, and 6th string quartets, with the 4th and 6th appearing on the recently released CD from Orchid Classics, ‘Air in Motion’. This new EP, containing the 5th string quartet, now completes the triptych, and we hope these recordings give a hint of the possibilities with this historic medium in a new century. This is a premiere recording, and I am immensely grateful to the Escher Quartet for their artistry.
String Quartet No. 5 Pierre Jalbert (b. 1967)
I. Prelude: Terra Incognita
II. Scherzo: Upheaval
III. Variations on Les Pèlerins
My 5th string quartet was commissioned by Chamber Music Houston (on the occasion of their 50th anniversary) and the Barlow Endowment for the Emerson String Quartet, who premiered the work in 2011. The original inspiration for the piece was a journey: that of French-speaking peoples emigrating from Europe to North America (Quebec and other parts of Canada) and ultimately to the U.S. but one might also just as well apply it to any migratory journey full of unexpected turns, trials and tribulations. The piece is not programmatic, but more reflective of states of mind, states of being.
The work is in four contrasting movements. The first movement, Terra Incognita (Latin for an unexplored or strange land) serves as a lyrical prelude to the work. This leads directly into the scherzo, which contains more gritty, insistent music (the title Upheaval refers to the Acadian expulsion from parts of Canada in the mid-18th century). The third movement is a set of 5 variations on a French-Canadian folk song entitled Les Pèlerins. In the folk song, the words speak of a pilgrimage to a holy shrine (yet another journey). After some initial ethereal and muted sustained tones, the theme is presented simply, although interrupted from time to time by high, soft string harmonics. Each variation then becomes more and more motion oriented. The final movement, entitled Perpetuum, is a no-holds-barred, relentless progression to the end, full of contrapuntal riffs passed between the instruments and full of rhythmic vitality.
American composer Pierre Jalbert has earned widespread attention for his richly colored and superbly crafted scores which paint vibrant sonic portraits for the listener through a musical language that is engaging, expressive, and “immediately captures one’s attention with its strong gesture and vitality” (American Academy of Arts and Letters). Drawing inspiration from a variety of sources from plainchant melodies to natural phenomena and his French-Canadian heritage, his music has been commissioned and performed worldwide by artists and institutions including the Boston Symphony, London Symphony, the Los Angeles and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, the Symphonies of Houston, Cincinnati, Budapest, Vermont, Albany, and Milwaukee, the National Symphony, and the Cabrillo and Eastern Festival Orchestras among others. Hailed as an “acknowledged chamber-music master” by The New Yorker, his chamber music has been commissioned and performed by Midori, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Escher, Emerson, Ying, Del Sol, Chiara, and Borromeo String Quartets, Music from Copland House, Morgenstern Trio, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, Chatter, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.
Known for his “Rhapsodic and skillfully written” (The New York Times) music, his discography features recordings by David Finckel and Wu Han, his Violin Concerto with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Margaret Batjer as soloist, Kinetic, the Jupiter, Pro Arte and Ying Quartets, and the Music from Copland House ensemble.
Among his many honors are the Rome Prize, the BBC Masterprize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Fromm Foundation commission, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Stoeger Award, given biennially “in recognition of significant contributions to the chamber music repertory”, and an Academy award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Jalbert has served as Composer-in-Residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, California Symphony, and Chicago’s Music in the Loft. He is Professor of Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music in Houston, and his music is published by Schott Music.
The Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty. A former BBC New Generation Artists and recipient of the Avery Fisher Career Grant, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town of New York, the ensemble serves as season artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
The Escher Quartet has made a distinctive impression throughout Europe, with recent debuts including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Les Grands Interprètes Geneva, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and Auditorium du Louvre. The group has appeared at festivals such as the Heidelberg Spring Festival, Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival, and the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.
Alongside its growing European profile, the Escher Quartet continues to flourish in its home country, performing at the Aspen Music Festival, Bravo! Vail, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Bowdoin Music Festival, Toronto Summer Music, Chamber Music San Francisco, Music at Menlo, and the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals. The quartet has held faculty positions at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX and the University of Akron, OH.
The Escher Quartet takes its name from the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole.