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Music from Copland House Releases New Pierre Jalbert Portrait Album Secret Alchemy

Dec. 08, 2016

Music from Copland House Releases New Pierre Jalbert Portrait Album <em>Secret Alchemy</em>

With any new composition, there is a sense of discovery and mystery during the creative process. Though [Secret Alchemy] is not programmatic, imagining the air of secrecy and mysticism surrounding a medieval alchemist at work provided a starting point for the piece.
– Pierre Jalbert 

On January 16, 2017, Music from Copland House (MCH), the acclaimed resident ensemble at Aaron Copland’s National Historic Landmark home in New York, releases Secret Alchemy, a new CD of chamber music by Pierre Jalbert. The album features Jalbert’s Trio for violin, cello and piano (1998), as well as the premiere recordings of String Trio (2008), Crossings (2011) and Secret Alchemy (2012). The album’s title work, scored for violin, viola, cello and piano, was commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and embraces the mystery of creation and euphoria of discovery. The composer writes: 

The first movement begins with this sense of mystery. String harmonics are used to create the rhythmic backdrop for melodic lines played by the cello and later, the viola. The second movement is a relentless scherzo characterized by pizzicato strings, turbulent piano writing, and quickly alternating rhythmic patterns. The third movement is influenced by medieval music with its use of open 5ths, chant-like lines played non-vibrato by the strings, and reverberant piano harmonies, simulating the sound and reverberation in a large cathedral. The fourth movement concludes the work with an energetic music characterized by strings playing fast measured tremolo figures (rapid movement of the bow back and forth on the string). These alternate with the piano’s massive chords and occasional rapid melodic figures, along with muted tones emanating from inside the piano.

A recipient of the Rome Prize and the BBC Masterprize, Pierre Jalbert earned a PhD in Composition at the University of Pennsylvania under principal teacher George Crumb. Hailed by The New Yorker as “an acknowledged chamber-music master,” Jalbert is currently Professor of Composition and Theory at Rice University's Shepherd School of Music in Houston. 

For more information on Pierre Jalbert, visit

Pierre Jalbert
Trio (1998)
for violin, cello and piano

String Trio (2008)

Crossings (2011)
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano

Secret Alchemy (2012)
for violin, viola, cello and piano