PROKOFIEV; STRAVINSKY Transcriptions for Piano
In Stravinsky’s Three Movements from Petrushka, David Jalbert begins the ‘Russian Dance’ at a promising clip, only to slightly slow down after the first eight bars. While there’s nothing laboured about Jalbert’s precise, well-modulated pianism, it doesn’t match Yuja Wang’s crisper, more playful and supple reading, let alone Pollini’s reference interpretation. By contrast, Jalbert assiduously gauges the quick mood-changes in ‘Petrushka’s Cell’; listen in particular to the delicacy of his grace notes in the Andantino (about 1'32" into the movement). Jalbert’s ‘Shrovetide Fair’ may not the most shimmering or exuberant on disc, yet his scrupulous balancing of the accordion-like textures and rhythmic exactitude impress. At bar 95, Jalbert follows Stravinsky’s orchestral score by interpolating his own arrangement of ‘Bear Dance’; Stravinsky omitted this passage in his transcription.
Jalbert proves more extrovert and incisive in excerpts from Guido Agosti’s Firebird transcription. What colour and motoric momentum he brings to the ‘Danse infernale’, contrasting with his caressingly flexible treatment of the Berceuse. The finale’s opening tremolos are differentiated in regard to voicing and touch, helping to build the movement to an exultant climax.
Better still are the 10 pieces that Prokofiev arranged from his ballet Romeo and Juliet. It’s ironic how Jalbert’s readings are so vividly and diversely detailed from a pianistic standpoint, yet one almost doesn’t notice the instrument. In ‘The Street Awakens’, for example, Jalbert’s minute gradations of touch in the detached phrases evoke an agile woodwind section, while his brisk, long-lined treatment of ‘The Arrival of the Guests’ is a real minuet, rather than the heavy-handed clog dance one often hears. By keeping the dashing scales of ‘The Young Juliet’ on an even keel, Jalbert allows you to hear the air between the rapid notes. The pianist underlines the final movement’s expressive points by judiciously contouring the music’s polyphony and using discreet rubato, thereby shaving off a minute or two from slower, more superficially emotive renditions. A worthwhile disc, overall, even if Petrushka’s first two movements could have been better.