The perfect Sunday afternoon out!
A PRELUDE IN TEA is a Sunday chamber music series offering a delicious afternoon tea as a prelude to a virtuosic afternoon concert of music at the splendid Independent Theatre in North Sydney.
Whilst last Sunday’s performance was not quite the Chamber music that some had subscribed to it was nevertheless a very enjoyable one.
This month’s recital featured the accomplished and renowned Australian pianist and composer Mark Isaacs.
Isaacs replaced the previously scheduled Enigma Trio on extremely short notice after a 12 month absence from the recital stage. He had just a mere two weeks to prepare and perform a lovely program of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Satie, Poulenc as well as playing some of his own original compositions, all delivered with fervour and passion.
Isaacs is one of the few musicians with interests both in the classical and jazz music world including film, television and theatre. His output encompasses both classical (over 90 works) and jazz, and takes in orchestral music – including a symphony (2013) as well as works for piano and orchestra
The concert began with Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat Major, Op. 27 No. 2, a glorious piece of music in Lento sostenuto style i.e. “slow and sustained”. His left hand played beautiful arpeggios throughout the entire piece and his right hand brought out the melody in a sustained yet delicate manner. His crescendos and decrescendos were gradual and the cadenza towards the end was delivered superbly.
What followed next were Chopin’s Etude Op. 10, No. 3 (“Tristesse”) with its poetic and lingering ‘sad’ melody played confidently by Isaacs with feeling and emotion. It’s a most beautiful melody. This was followed by the Etude Op. 25 No. 1 “Aeolian Harp” with its flowing use of rapid arpeggios requiring both dexterity and velocity.
Next came 3 Rachmaninoff Preludes in D major, Op. 23 No. 4, Prelude in E flat major, Op. 23 No.6 and Prelude in G sharp minor, Op. 32 No.12. The soulful melancholy melodies and noted use of arpeggios in these piece suited this pianist well.
The Debussy ‘Arabesque No. 1’ piece followed. One could sense that this piece resonated strongly with this pianist. The flowing, melodic and impressionistic style of Debussy has been quoted as an influence on some of Isaac’s style and compositions.
Eric Satie Gymnopedie No. 1 followed played in a highly restrained soulful manner completing the first half of the program with Francis Poulenc ‘Intermezzo No. 2 in D flat major’.
The second half of the program followed after a short interval.
Isaac’s performed excerpts from his “Children’s Songs (2011) original compositions No. 2 “Gentle Swing’, No. 4 Lullaby 1 and No. 18 Absheid (nicht). These are amongst a collection of eighteen piano pieces that describe a childhood scene or mood and contain both classical and jazz elements. The mood of these pieces were a mixture of the wistful and playful with the tempo at a moderate pace. Gentle Swing (#2) was very soothing and innocent, while Lullaby (#4) could almost put the listener to sleep. Abscheid (#18) was also hypnotic and serene.
The concert ended with the world premiere of “Three Impromptus (2017)” which was quite a treat. These pieces were entirely extemporised i.e. the pianist just made the pieces up on the spot without any prior idea of what he was going to play.
Isaac’s classical background and considerable technique shone through. The first piece commenced with gusto, forte with a high use of octaves delivering a forceful lovely melody. The second and third pieces were more melodic, beautiful and soulful with lots of chord progression.
Isaac’s has described his third piece as “quite grandiloquent”, “being surprised when it came out like that” and “I just play what I hear in the moment”. I would most certainly have to agree with him.
After a resounding applause he treated the audience to his unique jazz version of the “Wave” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, the famous Brazilian bossa nova composer.
This was a delightful concert featuring a pianist playing classical music with passion.
Be sure to see Mark Isaac perform jazz with his new trio at Foundry 616, Ultimo on Wednesday May 17 2017. Together with his new trio they will be exploring great melodies – whether standards or “not-so-standards” – with fervour and lyricism.