Mark Isaacs (1958 -)

Chamber Symphony

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The Chamber Symphony, by Australian composer Mark Isaacs, is a study in concision. It is shorter in length than a traditional symphony – being only 16 minutes long, smaller in size – using 13 performers rather than an orchestra, and abbreviates the traditional symphonic form.
In the work’s opening bars a gently pulsing accompaniment gives rise to the first movement’s main theme, a lilting melody that first marks out its home territory before venturing further and further afield. The strings then take the lead in a short canonic conversation before the flute and clarinet introduce a second related theme.

After developing the material the Chamber Symphony returns to the introductory accompaniment, but rather than restating the movement’s main musical subjects as in traditional sonata form, the music moves immediately into a Berceuse (cradle song). Here, the melody is infused with flavours from the work’s opening theme, but it is set against lush harmonies that betray the composer’s jazz training. As the composer writes, “I happily stand on the shoulders of what I have learned from the giants of classical composition, but when my jazz experience pokes through in some way, I don’t resist it.” After a short instrumental primer, the addition of a soprano voice – singing with no words – adds warmth to this engaging lullaby.

It is in the jaunty final movement that the jazz and classical sound worlds of the composer’s musical background achieve their most equal marriage. Here, the gentle pulsing with which the work commenced is resurrected as a vibrant rhythmic accessory, while the exposed melodic riffs soon give way to the previously absent recapitulation of the work’s opening theme.
Mark Isaacs was commissioned to write Chamber Symphony by Harry and Julie Johnson, avid music-lovers and concertgoers. 


Guest Artist; Lee Abrahmsen (soprano), Omega Ensemble; Lisa Osmialowski (flute), Alex Fontaine (oboe), David Rowden (clarinet), Ben Hoadley (bassoon), Michael Dixon (horn), Mark Robinson (percussion), Maria Raspopova (piano), Huy-Nguyen Bui (violin), Anna McMichael (violin), Neil Thompson (viola), Teije Hylkema (cello), David Campbell (double bass)

Video Credits

Audio recording by Fine Music
Omega Ensemble gratefully acknowledges their support
Bruce Terry - Videographer
Greg Simmons - Recording Engineer