Marimba, ARTE NOVA Classics, BMG Entertainment

The pipes of the low notes roar, the high tones weep, and then each grain of the notes melts into the silence. Alex Jacobowitz’s new recording, “The Art of Xylo” presents us with the real potential of this often forgotten instrument.

When an instrument establishes itself as a solo instrument, a player who makes the playing of the piece on the instrument inevitable appears. Alex Jacobowitz seems to have made a step towards such for the Marimba.

Jacobowitz’s performance utilizes a lot of rubert perhaps for the deep love towards the pieces. This sometimes causes the flow of music to break. In the field of playing the arranged pieces for Marimba, such recordings like Gold Rush by Safri Duo or Marimba When by Leigh Howard Stevens are smoother.

However, these performances are something that I find better played on the piano, and do not find the inevitableness of being played on Marimba. The techniques are impressive, but I do not find any advantage of playing it on the Marimba, when viewed from the pure musical standpoint. 

In contrast with it, Jacobowitz’s “The Art of Xylos” brings out the charms of Marimba sound to its maximum and presents it as music. Wide dynamic range, the variation in the timber. The performance that makes the audience listens even to the process of sound dissolving into the air makes Bach and Beethoven uniquely marimba pieces.

For example, until I heard this recoding, it was impossible to imagine playing “the moonlight” by Beethoven on the Marimba. After all, how could such a piece of the most refined extremity of pianism be played on anything but a piano? Yet, this performance makes me imagine that Beethoven may have predicted that it will be played on an instrument called Marimba exactly 200 years from the time of the composition. (Though, the treatment of the last two cords could be better!)

Traumerei by Schumann is the same. To me, this piece was to be enjoyed only by the performance of Vladimir Horowitz, yet Jacobowitz is coming close, too. Mozart’s Fantasia also impressed me on the treatments (though there are couple of places that I am dissatisfied) and Bach’s Chaconne makes me listen to it. (Chromatic Fantasy is good also, but scales could flow better.) Pictures at an Exhibition has a taste, and a first time listener of the “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” could even think it is the piece for the Marimba!

Recording also is excellent. Though no artificial reverberation is added, this recording brings out the rich sound of Jacobowitz performance of 5 octaves Adams (1994 Van Sice Model) together with the natural sound of the hall. The low notes and the way the sound melts into the space above you is especially admirable, so it should better be appreciated on a stereo system which can produce a firm low sound and the spacious feeling. (I would recommend listening through a pair of speakers than a headphone as headphone brings out the contact sound of the mallet to the keys unnecessarily.)

If you like the marimba, add this CD to your collection. If you have not been listening to much marimba, I would recommend you to try this one out. 

(Nat Sakimura) [Original Text in Japanese]

The Art of XylosAlex Jacobowitz, Marimba
Total Recording Time:67:40
AN 74321 91300 2
Marimba = Adams “Robert Van Sice Model (5 Octave) ” 1994
[Note:In the CD jacket and notes, it is referred to as Xylophone, but it is a performance on a Marimba.]
Falla – from “the Three-Cornered Hat”
[01] Dance of the MillerTarrega
[02] Recuerdos de la AlhambraMussorgsky — from “Pictures at an Exhibition”
[03] Samuel Goldenberg & Shmuyle
[04] The Old CastleJ.S. Bach
[05] Chromatic Fantasy BMW 903
[06] Chaconne in d minor (from Partita No.2 BMW 1004)Couperin
[07] Les Baricades MisterieusesDebussy — from Preludes (1st book)
[08] VIII (… La fille aux cheveu de lin)Satie
[09] Gymnopedie No.1Smadbeck
[10] Rhythm SongJewish Traditional
[11] Firn di Mechatonim AheimBeethoven — from “Moonlight Sonata” (1801) op.27 no.2 
[12] I. Adagio sostenutoMozart
[13] Fanasia in d minor KV 397Schumann — from kinderszenen op.15
[14] Traumerei