O Christmas - Solo Piano
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||Good Christian Men||Isadar||4:30||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Teddy Bear's Picnic / March of the Toys||Isadar||3:38||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||O Christmas Tree||Isadar||3:34||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Still||Isadar||3:20||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||O Come, O Come, Emmanuel||Isadar||4:57||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Song of the Wise Men||Isadar||4:28||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||O Come Little Children||Isadar||2:57||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Greensleeves 2012||Isadar||3:56||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Masters in This Hall||Isadar||5:42||$0.99||View in iTunes|
||Merry Christmas... and a Happy New Year||Isadar||5:39||$0.99||View in iTunes|
"O Christmas" is Isadar’s second solo piano release this year. Seven years in the making, it is an exuberant and joyful follow-up to his 1999 release, "In Search For the Meaning of Christmas," which was also solo piano. Like the earlier album, "O Christmas" is comprised of a fascinating mix of Christmas carols, some familiar and others more “off the beaten path.” Isadar’s playing and composing styles are uniquely his own, combining unusual arrangements and complex rhythms into a delightful listening experience for anyone looking for Christmas music that is different from more mainstream releases. (Pianistic fans of Isadar’s music will welcome the news that there is a companion sheet music book for this album as well.) I have been a fan of Isadar’s music since his 1999 release, Active Imagination, and had the pleasure of hosting a house concert for him in July 2010. In a live setting, I was even more blown away by his incredible playing and the depth of his music. "O Christmas" is a brilliant showcase of Isadar’s original interpretations of some well-worn Christmas gems as well as his amazing chops.
The album begins with “Good Christian Men,” a light-hearted, effervescent take on a Christmas classic. Faithful to the original melody, Isadar adds some original passages that make the piece his own. If this one doesn’t give you a lift, repeat as necessary! The medley of “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” and “March of the Toys,” while rather dark and mysterious, conveys a playful and gentle spirit - a favorite. “O Christmas Tree” is smooth and easy-going - a bit slower than you usually hear it. “Still” (“Still, Still, Still”) has become an instrumental favorite over the years and is usually presented in a similar style to “Silent Night.” Not this one! Bouncy and upbeat, Isadar’s version all but dances out of the player - a really fun arrangement! “O Come Little Children” overflows with energy and joy. Hearing Liz Story’s interpretation of “Greensleeves” on the radio quite a few years ago marked a major turning point in Isadar’s music career, and he has updated his homage to that piece with “Greensleeves 2012.” Sparkling yet graceful, it’s a wonderful addition to this collection. “Masters In This Hall” is another favorite. With an intriguing rhythm in the deep bass and a lively melody dancing around the piano keyboard, this is a “big” piece that is really effective with the volume cranked up! “Merry Christmas...And A Happy New Year,” an unusual interpretation of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” closes the album. Lively, but more subdued than buoyant and a bit on the dark side, it’s a very unusual and interesting interpretation!
Check it out if you are looking for some something a little different! Recommended!
Review except from Music and Media Focus
One of the most interesting things about this album is the fact that the selections are traditional Christmas songs, yet some were chosen because they are less well known, or “off the beaten path” as Isadar characterizes them. The album begins with a track called “Good Christian Men.” Isadar’s interpretation creates a lively and festive air that makes a perfect portal to the recording. The high-spirited mood continues on the next song, “Teddy Bears Picnic,” which although not technically a Christmas song, has been interwoven by Isadar with "March Of The Toys" to tie it in with the holidays – a clever arrangement of these intriguing melodies. One of the more well-known carols on the album is “O Christmas Tree” and is sure to have listeners humming along with it’s familiar refrain.
A track entitled “Still” is an innovative rendition of the classic “Still, Still, Still” which Isadar has put his own spin on, or as he jokingly puts it “jazzed up shamelessly.” No such liberties were taken on the classic “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” however. This song provides a showcase for Isadar’s accomplished grand piano work, featuring lush left hand arpeggios creating a strong foundation for his more delicate right hand melodies to dance upon – a powerful and moving combination. Another of the less well known, yet equally inspiring tunes is a Puerto Rican carol entitled “Song Of The Wise Men.”
Among my favorite tracks on the album are the wistful strains of “Greensleeves 2012,” which Isadar interprets with elegance and grandeur and also pays 'homage' to Liz Story's brilliant take on this enduring composition. The album draws to a close with Isadar invoking artistic license on what is perhaps one of the most unique and liberal versions of a classic carol heard here yet. Based on “We Wish You A Merry Christmas,” Isadar characterizes it as “an uninhibited melancholy arrangement.” While I don’t know if “melancholy” is the word I would use to describe it, it does have a pensive quality and is presented more as a nocturne than usual lively carol it is known as. I really liked the interpretation and respect Isadar’s creativity and distinctive rendering of the song.
"O Christmas" is an exceptional holiday collection, not only for Isadar’s elegant grand piano artistry, but as well for the interesting and sometimes unexpected repertoire contained within. Like ornaments on a tree, the songs adorn the album, enhancing its beauty with their diversity, individuality, and timelessness. Given the well-deserved accolades and popularity of Isadar’s distinctive piano style, I’m sure that fans will want to include "O Christmas" in their collection and make it a part of their holiday tradition.
Genre: New Age
Years Active: '00s