Samuel Barber: Piano Concerto op. 38 - Béla Bartók: Piano Concerto No. 3 - Keith Jarrett: Tokyo Encore

Keith Jarrett, Rundfunk Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, Dennis Russell Davies

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For much of the 1980s, Keith Jarrett balanced his improvisational activities with performances of classical music and contemporary composition. On this disc, with concert recordings from 1984 and 1985, he is heard playing Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto op. 38 and Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3, and rising to the challenges of these major works. The New York Times praised Jarrett’s playing of the Barber with Dennis Russell Davies in this period (“a sinewy, vigorously lyrical performance … both sensitive and strong”), and the Bartók with Kazuyoshi Akiyama was most enthusiastically received in Japan. After the Tokyo Bartók performance Jarrett returned alone to the stage of the Kan-i Hoken Hall to play a touching improvised encore, also documented on this recording. The album includes liner notes by Keith Jarrett and Paul Griffiths. (This historical album of music by Barber, Bartók and Jarrett is one of two albums issued on May 8th, Keith Jarrett’s 70th birthday, the other album being Creation with new recordings of improvised solo piano.)

Während eines Großteils der 1980er Jahre hielt Keith Jarrett sein Schaffen als Improvisator in bewusster Balance mit Aufführungen klassischer Musik und zeitgenössischer Komposition. Auf dem vorliegenden Album ist eindrucksvoll zu hören, wie er die Herausforderungen von Samuel Barbers Klavierkonzert op. 38 and Béla Bartóks 3. Klavierkonzert meistert. Die New York Times pries Jarretts Barber-Interpretation unter Dennis Russell Davies in dieser Ära („eine kraftvolle, leidenschaftlich lyrische Darbietung … empfindsam und stark“). Bartóks Klavierkonzert unter Kazuyoshi Akiyama wurde in Japan enthusiastisch gefeiert. Nach dem Konzert in Tokio kam Jarrett noch einmal allein auf die Bühne der Kan-i Hoken Hall zurück und spielte eine anrührende Zugabe, die auf dieser Aufnahme ebenfalls dokumentiert ist. Das CD-Booklet enthält Texte von Keith Jarrett und Paul Griffiths. (Dieses historische Album mit Musik von Barber, Bartók und Jarrett, ist eine von zwei Veröffentlichungen, die am 8. Mai, Keith Jarretts 70. Geburtstag, erscheinen. Die andere, betitelt Creation, enthält neue Aufnahmen von Solopiano-Improvisationen).
Featured Artists Recorded

June 1984 & January 1985

Original Release Date

08.05.2015

  • Piano Concerto op. 38
    (Samuel Barber)
  • 1I Allegro appassionato12:32
  • 2II Canzone. Moderato06:16
  • 3III Allegro molto07:57
  • Piano Concerto No. 3 Sz. 119
    (Béla Bartók)
  • 4I Allegretto07:42
  • 5II Adagio religioso10:16
  • 6III Allegro vivace09:08
  • 7Tokyo Encore: Nothing But A Dream
    (Keith Jarrett)
    04:52
Keith Jarrett plays Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto op. 38 and Béla Bartók’s Piano Concerto no. 3. These recordings, made in 1984 and 1985 in Saarbrücken and Tokyo, make a significant addition to the pianist’s discography as an interpreter of notated music. Jarrett’s recordings of classical repertoire for ECM have focused primarily on Bach and Mozart, though there are also exemplary albums of Handel’s keyboard music, and Shostakovich’s Bach-inspired Preludes and Fugues as well as a crucially important contribution to Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa. Playing Fratres alongside Gidon Kremer, Jarrett’s participation would help to bring a then little-known Estonian composer to world attention.  It was a richly creative period. Jarrett had just launched the jazz group with Gary Peacock and Jack DeJohnette that would become known as the Standards Trio and in parallel was giving classical recitals, and continuing with his solo piano improvisations.  Splitting his time between jazz standards, the vast literature of classical music and free playing, Jarrett was juggling three different musical disciplines.  But as Paul Griffiths points out in his liner note for Barber/Bartók/Jarrett there are some points of overlap.  

The concertos of Barber and Bartók “came from a world in which Jarrett was living; in a sense, they allowed him to speak of his own epoch, even while performing a work someone else had notated in detail. That they also belonged to a world in which jazz was living was part of the deal – though it was never the ‘jazz concertos’ of Aaron Copland, George Gershwin and others that gained Jarrett’s advocacy but rather works in which the jazz presence is more subtle, part of the background against which the music is taking place.
Barber’s concerto of 1960-62 exemplifies this, not only in its melodic-harmonic language but also in how it often grows through varied repetitions and partial repetitions of a tune. This happens right from the unaccompanied solo at the start, where Jarrett is able to work with the ideas as if pushing them around, seeing where they will go and how they relate.”  
 
 “I loved this piece when I first heard it in the 1960s,” says Jarrett of the Barber concerto in his performer’s note in the CD booklet, and The New York Times acknowledged the quality of his affection in a 1983 concert review: “Here was an accomplished jazz pianist who gave Barber’s piano concerto a performance that was both sensitive and strong. Barber, of course, exhibited some influence of American rhythms and song; Mr Jarrett closed the circle. His seriousness showed how the crossing of aesthetic lines can be more than merely condescending or entertaining.”

The Barber performance also draws strength from Jarrett’s association with Dennis Russell Davies. Pianist and conductor had been friends since 1974 when they first collaborated in a performance of Carla Bley’s piece 3/4. Davies would subsequently conduct Jarrett’s Arbour Zena music on tour, record Jarrett’s solo piano composition Ritual and (in the 1990s) direct the  Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in Jarrett’s acclaimed recordings of the Mozart concertos.  

Jazz musicians have long admired Bartók, and indeed Bartók expressed interest in jazz. Jarrett, a musician with Hungarian family roots, born in the year of Bartók’s death, had the Mikrokosmos amongst his earliest childhood musical studies and was all but predestined to address the Bartók concertos.  Paul Griffths: “The first movement of the third concerto is an emigré’s dream, treating a Hungarian melody with some of the looseness of improvisation. Jarrett of course understands this well…” And in the last movement, “the two big fugal episodes, which include some of Bartók’s most Bach-like writing, benefit from this pianist’s ability to make canon seem spontaneous – as spontaneous as the surrounding, bounding Hungarian jazz that this performance equally brings to life.”

After the Bartók performance in Tokyo, Jarrett returned to the stage of the Kan’i Hoken Hall to play an improvised solo piece, now titled “Tokyo Encore – Nothing But A Dream.”