Whereas we’re acquainted with improvisation within the conventional “jazz” model – or variation and embellishment within the Baroque and Classical types, we normally consider improvisation occurring over a pre-existing harmonic and melodic construction. Hardly ever can we expertise true extemporisation in reside efficiency – talking musically with out planning or preparation, creating melodic pathways and constructing bridges with no highway map, really composing what’s within the thoughts, talking within the instant second, and likewise having a bigger perspective of the form and course of recent type. Is that complicated? And this isn’t only for a couple of minutes – however for a full recital. Extemporisation should absolutely be the final word artwork type for a solo performer?
Vladimir Ashkenazy has described the music of Mark Isaacs as “extremely creative and touching” and “his reward is so uncommon”. Though immediately it appears that evidently composing miniatures and small musical portraits is very common, Isaacs’ work is refined and grand in high quality and design. He started his efficiency with a mature creation of melodic form and harmonic sequences, extraordinary contrapuntal traces, and an admirable independence of fingers as a melodic bass line shaped its personal solo voice beneath two or three growing greater voices. If Bach had been watching, he would have been impressed with the usage of Baroque architectural recommendations now in contemporary and thrilling up to date settings. The viewers was silent and immobile, spellbound – someplace between awe and anticipation.
Isaacs is a extremely esteemed author for movie and orchestra, he thinks colors and timbres, he encourages the grand piano to be his orchestra. As a creator and explorer, he makes use of the tonal percussive assets of the strings, the woodwork, a full vary and depth of pitch, with the sonorities and language realized from his lifelong efficiency within the widest vary of musical types. The affect of Ravel and Debussy might be felt in orchestral chordal sequences and suspended excessive celestial tones, dreamy, expressive and considerate. As improvisatory passages developed, Isaacs moved into high gear in virtuosic full flight with cadenzas and scale passages offering whirlwinds of pleasure. Impressionist colors had been felt in a single space the place Isaacs exploited the low bass notes with rhythmic depth, with a quick percussive impact, primitive and timeless.
The music of Spain is very conducive to improvisation, with its exploration of free rhythms and timing, with melodies that encourage ornamentation, and spontaneity. Because the temper in a single part introduced us heat Latin American flavours and aptitude, by no means was any rhythmic sample overly repeated, no temper or suggestion of unique locations over-exploited. Isaacs’ composition flowed and assorted naturally via these balanced musical actions.
In efficiency, Isaacs reveals a heat, sincere and distinctive persona. He’s an internationally esteemed pianist, equally a grasp within the classical and jazz world with out bells and whistles. Jazz instrumentalists are sometimes heard vocalising their improvisation as they carry out on their instrument – and Isaacs is commonly heard utilizing his voice, buzzing spontaneously as melodic concepts evolve. In a single motion Isaacs explored a jazz ballad model, with the left hand offering intermittent chordal accents, the appropriate hand freely taking a protracted lyrical vocal phrase downwards, up and over the left hand, right down to the bass, in a steady and easy line. Stunning. Ingenious.
I felt this program was like an extemporised Symphony for the Piano, conceived as “actions” separated solely by important silences. The ultimate bars got here with a sequence of broadly voiced, gradual chords, calm, spacious, non secular, suspended. With an appreciative viewers wanting to listen to extra, Isaacs gave us a shimmering, glowing, robust efficiency of Ravel’s Ondine to finish a exceptional program.
Julie McErlain reviewed Solo Extempore, carried out by pianist Mark Isaacs within the Primrose Potter Salon, Melbourne Recital Centre, on December 3, 2021.