The Celestial Hawk
Keith Jarrett piano
Christopher Keene conductor
Recorded March 1980, Carnegie Hall, New York
Engineer: Stan Tonkel
Produced by Manfred Eicher and Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett’s classical modality often comes across to me as a dark pastoral, a variegated tapestry of intensity and withdrawal. And while The Celestial Hawk may be no different in this regard, it promises some brighter discoveries upon deeper listening. Against a gentle backdrop of percussion that includes timpani, snare, and triangle, Jarrett deploys his tiny fleets of high notes in the First Movement, out of which arises a delicate harp ostinato, doubled by piano and accentuated by woodwinds and strings, as a crystalline glockenspiel slowly clouds into less translucent ores. After a deep surge, Jarrett rows us into calmer waters alone at the piano, where dolphins in the forms of harp and mallet percussion soon join him. The Second Movement offers up the most cinematic passage of this piece. One can feel its images running, skipping, and emoting through lives unseen. We never stay in one thread for too long, for each is picked up by another into which the previous one has looped itself. The martial snare and cavalrous brass of the Third Movement glisten with the patriotism of an undiscovered country, bound to a manifest destiny in which walking is like flight. From behind the uplifted curtain, horns dance for us a message to prosperity. And yet even as the twilight descends, the oboe threads a ray of moonlight through the waters, bringing with it all sense of time for which beauty is but an afterthought to the truer beauties of slumber, where life ends in a crashing gong.
Despite being very programmatic, this music is far more than incidental to the narrative it describes. At times tumbling in billowy romance, at others even jarringly uncomfortable, Jarrett’s piano embraces itself, following the orchestral advice that surrounds it to the letter. It is an honest music, a painful truth, a call for peace in a violent world.