In an age when many young pianists are flooding the classical music scene, David Jalbert has distinguished himself as a firebrand talent whose accomplishments belie his age. Born in Rimouski, Quebec in 1977, Jalbert’s performances prompt lavish critical praise and awards, including the 2007 Virginia Parker Prize awarded by the Canada Council for the Arts. Completing his Master’s Degree at the Université de Montréal at age 21 when most of his peers were just finishing their undergrad diplomas, Jalbert won the Governor General’s Gold Medal for the best results among all the University’s graduate students.
Jalbert has never shied away from taking the path less traveled, and in 2004 chose to dedicate his first solo disc to works by contemporary composers John Corigliano and Frederic Rzewski. His second recording, released in 2006, featured the Fauré Nocturnes. The repertoire for his debut ATMA recording — Shostakovich’s 24 Preludes and Fugues Opus 87— is another characteristically bold choice for a young pianist, one that sets him apart from the others.
With a full schedule of concert engagements including a solo tour of the Maritimes, recitals with his long-standing musical partner, cellist Denise Djokic, and performances with his trio Triple Forte, Jalbert spends a lot of time in airports. His tastes in literature, film and music are wide-ranging and eclectic, and he never travels without a couple of books tucked into his bag. Authors might include anyone from Dickens and Virginia Woolf to John Updike and Umberto Eco. Recent favourites are Le Roi des Aulnes (The Erl-King) by French writer Michel Tournier, known for his unconventional take on mythology and legend, and several novels by Acadian writer Antonine Maillet.
Jalbert’s tastes in music are equally wide-ranging and demonstrate a keenly open mind. While his concert programs might include music by Beethoven, Fauré, Chopin or Ligeti, his iPod is loaded with tunes by David Bowie, Bjork, Rufus Wainwright, Sonic Youth and blues masters Robert Johnson, BB King and Muddy Waters.
Avoiding pigeonholing is important to Jalbert, both as an artist and a consumer. “I am interested in the margins, and what we mean when we talk about low art and high art, pop versus classical. The boundary is not as clear as people would like to think, and it’s one I would like to investigate further.”