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Album Review: Pastorale
Brad Jacobsen
Cover image of the album Pastorale by Brad Jacobsen
Brad Jacobsen
2016 / Brad Jacobsen Music
42 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
Pastorale is pianist/composer Brad Jacobsen’s sixth album since his 2011 debut Road Home. It is also his first collection of original arrangements of favorite hymns. Jacobsen is now included on the prestigious roster of pianists who are officially Kawai Artists, and very deservedly so! His music often tells stories without words, getting to the heart of a piece and letting its unique truth sing without a lot of frills while emphasizing the melody and emotional content. Most of the twelve hymns (ten tracks) on Pastorale could be sung to, but then you wouldn’t be able to fully appreciate the beauty of the arrangements. While some have variations within the piece, the songs are easy to identify (if you already know them, of course!). Most of the songs have a relaxing, soothing tempo, although a couple of them are a little more energetic. The overall tone of the album is quiet and thoughtful/prayerful. In the background, the music creates a warm ambiance, but the music is so worthy of full attention whether or not the listener is particularly religious. Some of these songs have been around for hundreds of years, and there is a reason why they are classics. Jacobsen has found the soul of each song and made it new while fully respecting the spirit and integrity of the originals.

Pastorale begins with “My Father’s World,” arranged with a flowing left hand accompaniment that allows the soulful melody to express itself with sincerity and love. The medley of “Come Thou Fount” and “Amazing Grace” is very spare yet very eloquent. “For the Beauty of the Earth” is one of my favorites on the album. I’ve always loved the hymn itself, but Jacobsen’s arrangement has a lightness and joyfulness that really touch the heart while expressing gratitude for all that the earth has to offer its inhabitants. I wasn’t familiar with “Lead, Kindly Light,” but Jacobsen imbues this graceful and poignant song with deep meaning. “When Through the Woods (How Great Thou Art)” moves at a relaxed, flowing tempo, gently giving thanks and praise as in a prayer - another favorite. “I Need Thee Every Hour” is played mostly in the upper registers of the piano, expressing humility as well as a simple and prayerful openness - also a favorite. “Eventide (Abide With Me)” brings this lovely album to reflective and graceful close, leaving the listener feeling refreshed and renewed.

As I mentioned before, even if you are not religious or a church-goer, Brad Jacobsen’s arrangements and performances on Pastorale will touch the heart and provide a place of respite and reflection. Pianists will enjoy that the companion songbook for Pastorale will be available very shortly, and I will review it as soon as it is ready (hopefully by mid-May). This is a wonderful album, and I recommend it very highly! It is available from bradjacobsenmusic.com, Amazon, and iTunes.
April 15, 2016
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Hymn ArrangementsKathy's Picks
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