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Improvisation on Amazing grace


‘Artistic activity consists of both intuition and calculation,’ Hakim maintains. ‘The artist should aim for a certain balance between the two; for a reflection nourished by experience and instinct, the fruit of grace, “When reason is silent instinct will answer you” (Lamartine). Improvisation offers ground for such a balance. Instrumental mastery is a prerequisite for the improviser, on the levels of virtuosity, of knowledge of the expressive possibilities of the instrument, and of live performance. It involves an awareness of primary melody (Hauptstimme) and secondary melodic lines (Nebenstimmen), rhythmic development and elements of harmonic tension and relaxation. All the world’s civilisations and cultures have known improvisation, whether as the sole form of musical expression (eg in various Eastern traditions) or, as in the case of Western music, as the primary basis or preparation for a written work. Moreover, the history of music provides us with many examples of composers, from Bach to Stravinsky, who were noted for their improvisational mastery […] Being a particular form of human expression, Art should reflect emotional sensibility through the prism of the work. To attain to the poetic grace of the artistic gesture in improvisation, it is not enough to apply harmonic progressions, contrapuntal rules, formal diagrams, combinations of timbres or tricks of the trade. All technical aspects must rather be made subject to authentic compositional reflection in real-time, organized according to the three steps already referred to, ie consideration of the material, its absorption and lastly its commentary. The improviser will then be able to project an artistic thought through the evolutions of a theme so as to bring about the magical transfiguration of a moment in time’ (‘Principles of Improvisation’, Church Music Quarterly, July 2001). The present example, bordering on grand old-world fantasy, takes for its main subjects John Newton’s Amazing Grace (1772), the anonymous shaper-note hymn New Britain (1829/1835), and Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne (1788) in its traditional Scots dress. The theatrically climactic combination of the two pentatonic melodies is a heroic tour-de-force.

from notes by Ateş Orga © 2008


Naji Hakim
SIGCD130Download only


Track 21 on SIGCD130 [15'21] Download only

Track-specific metadata for SIGCD130 track 21

Recording date
10 June 2007
Recording venue
Glenalmond College, Scotland
Recording producer
Paul Baxter
Recording engineer
Paul Baxter
Hyperion usage
  1. Naji Hakim (SIGCD130)
    Disc 1 Track 21
    Release date: July 2008
    Download only
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