The Inside Story: Jeffrey Jacob

Long-time PARMA artist pianist and composer,  Jeffery Jacob,  has had his works performed worldwide by several high-profile ensembles, including Raymond Leppard and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, and most recently by the Cuban National Symphony. Today, Jacob is our next featured artist for “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalites of our artists. Read on to find out what his favorite musical moment was!

Jeffrey Jacob

Who was your first favorite artist(s) growing up?

Like most young children, I listened to the music my parents listened to.  They were passionate about Lawrence Welk, and we never missed a TV show.  I began piano lessons at the age of 5, and shortly thereafter various aunts and uncles would bombard me with the question, “Do you think you’ll ever be good enough to play with Lawrence Welk?”  My parents both sang in the church choir, and I could sense their deep love and profound response to music, although they never ever listened to Classical Music and were quite intimidated by it.  Later, as a pianist, I fell under the influence of Vladimir Horowitz’s recordings and was totally blown away by the rock star status of Van Cliburn after he won the first Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow at the height of the cold war.  I still vividly remember the newsreels of his New York City ticker tape parade.  During this period–middle school and high school–I thought it would be wonderful to have a career creating, performing and teaching music.

What was your most unusual performance, or the most embarrassing thing that happened to you during a performance?

My most sensationally memorable performance occurred in Warsaw, Poland.  I was performing George Crumb’s Makrokosmos, Vol. IV for piano duet with a Polish pianist.  Like all of Crumb’s piano music, much of the work is performed inside the piano with the pianists plucking, muting and playing glissandos over the strings.  At one point during the performance, I looked down at the keys.  Some of them were covered in blood.  The other pianist had nicked a finger on one of the sharp edges inside the instrument.  We finished the movement, and he produced two handkerchiefs and wiped up the blood.  The piano was turned so that most of the audience could see what was happening, and there were audible gasps.  When we finally finished the piece, the audience erupted in applause celebrating the fact that we had literally sacrificed the flesh for the sake of contemporary art!

What is your guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is writing music that is unabashedly tonal, romantic, and relentlessly melodic.  Although I have great admiration for serial and post-serial music (I’ve recorded three CDs of exclusively serial piano works by American composers), I’m troubled by the fact the complexity of this music is inaccessible to the general public.  A Spanish composer told me recently that young composers throughout Europe are furious with Boulez and Stockhausen for “destroying” (his word) the audience for new music in Europe.  And of course, when Boulez was appointed Music Director of the New York Philharmonic he promised to prove to the world that the general musical public would come to appreciate and embrace serial music.  During his tenure there he proved exactly the opposite.

NV6087 - Reawakening - Front Cover
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

My favorite musical moment on the album REAWAKENING was the recording of the signature work, “Awakening for Piano and Orchestra” with the Cuban National Symphony under its Music Director, Enrique Perez Mesa.   It was a great thrill to travel to Cuba and perform and record with this excellent ensemble and first class conductor.

Was there a piece on your album that you found more difficult to compose/perform than the others?

This work was by far the most difficult to compose.  I wanted to convey the sense of struggle and triumph in musical gestures that were not overly simplistic or derivative, but at the same time accessible and appealing to non-musicians.  For me, a very delicate balancing of sometimes disparate musical material.

Is there a specific feeling you want listeners to tune into when hearing your work?

I hope that listeners will find the album UPLIFTING.  The music conjures many images:  consciousness in both senses of the word, rebirth, the rhythms of the natural world, and reanimation.    “Reawakening” implies cyclic phenomena, and indeed the album was designed to suggest the most fundamental of all cycles:  birth development, maturity, death and rebirth in both the human and natural worlds.

Jeffrey Jacobs Navona Records release REAWAKENING is now available to purchase on Amazon, iTunes, and ArkivMusic. The album is also streaming on Spotify.



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