Jacob Greenberg | news/words

Jacob Greenberg

March 26, 2014

first time out

Last night’s Close Range show was a fun one–my first time out for Lachemann’s epic Serynade, the first of many, hopefully. Like other big narratives for solo piano I’ve played, it’s a test of how well I can shape on a big and small scale. Fortunately the piece is all about shaping the piano’s physical sound, and I’m always inspired by the unbelievable sounds I’m hearing, both the played chords and their altered resonances. It’s so well-composed that learning it was simply an act of discovery. Though some problems call for creative solutions, it’s all playable; and while it stretches the instrument’s capability, as in all of Lachenmann’s work, there’s nothing that presents itself as unidiomatic. Unidiomatic would mean ill-conceived, and everything in the piece is conceived with care, curiosity, and love.

I’m happy I paired it with Beethoven op. 110, which builds its own passionate resonances. For me the psychological climax of the sonata is the fugue inversion at the end, especially as it comes after a crisis. It’s a miraculous, unexpected rebirth in a distant key–Beethoven doesn’t specify a dynamic, so I try to start it as softly as possible, the first hints of new life.

August 27, 2013

change of scene

I’m moving. Within Brooklyn, and to a great place in Crown Heights. The summer’s been interesting to say the least–some travel with ICE to the Rockport Chamber Festival in Maine, and two weeks teaching with the group in Vermont. Really great people in both places.

Mostly Mozart was intentionally reminiscent of ICE’s early years in Chicago, where our ICEfests spanned ten days of ten concerts in ten venues. Four our tenth anniversary this year, we did the same run of ten, albeit in one venue, the Clark Studio Theatre at Lincoln Center. This time, thankfully, we got paid a little more.

My big event from the summer season at LC was the premiere of Ghostlight, the piece I commissioned from the amazing Nathan Davis, composer and percussionist with ICE. It turned out great–and will continue to grow. My first big experience with a commission, and an amazing venue to premiere it. The piece is for prepared piano, with a pretty intricate arrangement of hardware alligator clips and a few other objects–not invasive to the instrument, but delicate–and it really succeeded in illuminating the piano from within, creating a ghostly light.

Before I move next week, I’m taking a few days down at the Jersey shore, in Asbury Park. Why not?

May 8, 2013

Messiaen on the horizon

An eternity since my last post, but this is a good one: my Messiaen disc with the unbelievable Tony Arnold is ready, and set for release on June 1.

It’s been a busy spring, and ICE’s tour to Paris and London last month was a fine trip. It was amazing to be recorded for the BBC, and we think the show turned out very well.

September 13, 2012

a new season, upon me

After a remarkably full summer–between Brazil, Lincoln Center, and much music with ICE–it’s unmistakably fall. The air’s clearer, more transparent, and New York’s really beautiful this week. So was Chicago, over last weekend: I was thrilled to play a solo program as a benefit for my former synagogue–some nice press is here–and now I’m in for the long haul in New York.

There was some great time away in August: Seattle, Cape Cod. But it’s nice to be settling back in.

March 25, 2012

out like a lamb

March has been unusually busy, but some great things have come up: a tour with the amazing Amy Williams for her Cage prepared-piano project, which brought us to Boston and North Carolina, with Chicago dates to follow; and last weekend, a gig with the Philharmonic. Dohnányi was conducting. I had seen him many times in Cleveland when I was at Oberlin, and I still maintain a deep respect. It was really great to see him work from the other side.

I’m also hard at work editing Xenakis for ICE’s latest release on Mode Records, and I’m immersing myself in Kaija Saariaho’s music again, with many projects this spring and summer: ICE portraits in New York and Boston, and the New York premiere of Émilie, at this summer’s Lincoln Center Festival, for which I’ll be working one-on-one with Elizabeth Futral.

January 14, 2012

greedy for the new

I’m gearing up for a very busy winter. The end-of-year holidays were blissful–really, my favorite time to be in New York–and I was thankfully able to get a lot done. A few nice things happened, including a ten-best-list mention in Time Out Chicago. Now the whirlwind starts.

Terrestre, Claire’s new disc which I perform on and which I produced, is out in a matter of days. We give a preview event at Poisson Rouge on Tuesday the 17th, and the album is available for sale on the New Focus site immediately after. I’m really proud of this one, and Claire is simply an irreplaceable artist at the peak of her form.

And much more is on the docket…in the meantime, I’m as greedy as ever for new experiences inside and outside music. I’m following through on a resolution to check out albums I’ve forever been meaning to get around to, classical and otherwise, and there are lots of performances around New York and Chicago that I can’t wait to get to.

October 23, 2011

shifting focus

A crazed September and October are finally behind me, mostly; it’s time to regroup. After a few days with Claire in North Carolina, along the Outer Banks–where we played a private concert series, booked for us by Concert Artists Guild–I realize how much connecting with the shoreline is good for my soul. I’ll be spending some time along Rockaway Beach in the next week, as I keep practicing my Debussy Etudes…and more Busoni.

September 18, 2011

changing air

The new season’s upon me. ICE had a brilliant run of three performances of James Dillon’s Nine Rivers at the Miller Theatre this week, and the next few weeks will be rather nuts. A recording project with Tony Arnold begins next week–five opuses of Webern songs for Naxos–and in between, I’ll conduct Du Yun’s new chamber opera Angel’s Bone in Philly. A fuller-than-usual September and October, though I know I’ll make it through.

July 24, 2011

true story

The operetta that I wrote in fifth grade, “King Hybrid’s Court,” an homage to and, at the same time, a rip-off of Gilbert and Sullivan, was penned with the help of an early notation software program named Music Construction Set. It took a long time to input notes, but at the time I thought the playback feature was downright futuristic. Before long, I was writing a piano part for the piece which was physically impossible, but sounded completely awesome when the program played it back. I remember the synthesized piano sound very clearly.

In inputting my new Brahms transcriptions into Sibelius software, I’m realizing how far things have come. Still some stuff to get used to, but I’m slowly becoming an expert.

July 5, 2011


The new disc is ready. I’m very proud of this one. Onwards, upwards!

Physical discs here, high-quality downloads available here. A big thank you to all!

I spent a blissful Independence Day weekend in Northampton, MA, cat-sitting and having a practice room to myself at Smith College. No performances until Mostly Mozart with ICE next month, but there’s much new repertoire to learn, solo and otherwise.