In 2016, composer and pianist Jeffrey Jacob conducted interviews with children of illegal immigrants, whose plight ended up inspiring the pianist’s fifth symphony. Remarkably for contemporary composition, the work is quite condensed timewise; nevertheless, it packs the whole gamut of human sentiment, with the movements titled I. Lagrimas [Tears], II. Fear; Grace, and III. Separation, Grief; Resolution, Triumph.
Next up are three works for piano and orchestra, with Jacob at the piano. His clarity of tone is striking and the perfect fit for his own compositions. For a 20th-century composer, Jacob’s music is surprisingly tonal. The sound is unique and evocative; had Olivier Messiaen studied with Rachmaninoff, the Adagietto from Jacob’s Piano Concerto No. 2 might well be the result. Epitaph (In Memoriam) is fittingly epic for its title and, in style, highly reminiscent of Shostakovich’s piano concertos. A highlight of the album, however, appears in the form of the two-movement The Persistence of Memory, in which Jacob shifts his aim from the 20th to the mid-19th century. After a modern introduction, the listener is greeted with a quotation of Schumann’s Fantasy Dance, and the beautifully lamenting solo cello contrasted with lyrical piano lines is a direct reminder of the German composer’s Piano Trio No. 2.
Lastly, the pianist harks back to the centerpiece of DREAMERS, his symphony: a lone oboe interspersed with electronics brings both the album and the fifth symphony’s subject to a close. The outward circumstances have not changed, but the intangible remains the same.