‘In Isaac’s performance of Gallay Caprices on hand horn, he has a cast iron technique and the ferocious technical challenges posed by a composer who knew more than a bit about hand horn playing, were overcome without Isaac apparently turning a hair.’ - John Humphries, “The Horn Player”, Vol. 15, No. 3
Hailing from New Zealand, Isaac is a London-based musician; specialising in historical horns. As a soloist, Isaac has starred with the Australian New Goldberg Orchestra, Royal Welsh College Chamber Orchestra and appeared as a soloist at the British Horn Society Festival Gala Concert. He was awarded Associate in Music, Australia at age 15 and became the first historical performer to win the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music Brass Concerto Competition (2016), RWCMD Concerto Competition (2018), and the British Horn Society Award: Solo Performance Artist (2018). He was a finalist at the 51st International Horn Society Natural Horn Competition. Isaac has also performed in front of HRH Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall at Llwynywermod, and as a featured soloist in the President’s Dinner hosted by Lord Rowe-Beddoe of Kilgetty. Future engagements include Mozart’s Horn Quintet with Music for Awhile (Margaret Faultless), and a solo recital at St Martin-in-the-Fields.
However, his activities are not limited to historical performance. Formerly Co-Principal of The Melbourne Sinfonia, Isaac is a sought after orchestral musician, and has performed with numerous orchestras around the world. He has appeared with I Fagiolini at the Ryedale Festival, Irish Baroque Orchestra, Ex Cathedra, Haydn Philharmonie and Australian Youth Orchestra amongst others, and is a casual musician with Australian Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Les Siècles, and Ensemble Cordia. Isaac is also a Natural Horn Grant Award Holder with the Theresia Orchestra for 2018-2020 and holds the horn position for the 2019 Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment Peter and Ann Law Experience Scheme. Future engagements include Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra and Ensemble Eroica.
A keen chamber musician, Isaac has guested with the Australian National Academy of Music and delighted audiences at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He collaborates regularly with some of the world’s finest chamber soloist, and is a founding member of the award-winning, Melbourne-based Maverick Brass Quintet. With the Maverick Brass Quintet, they were awarded 3rd Prize at the 14th Jeju International Brass Competition. In 2018, Isaac was on trial with Paris-based contemporary ensemble Le Concert Impromptu, regarded by the Washington Post as “the finest French wind quintet”.
Isaac presents a series of varied recital-length programmes that centre on different themes and place great emphasis on the musical explorations of each theme. Below are some examples of Isaac’s current programmes.
FOLLOWING IN THE TEACHER’S FOOTSTEPS
Franz Danzi: Sonata for Pianoforte and Horn in E-flat Major, Op. 28
Nikolaus von Krufft: Sonata in E Major
Friedrich Eugen Thurner: Grande Sonate for Pianoforte and Horn, Op. 29
Ignaz Moscheles: Introduction Et Rondeau Ecossais, Op. 63
Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata in F Major, Op. 17
Jan Ladislav Dussek: Notturno Concertant Op. 68
Johannes Brahms: Horn Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 40
ENGLISH RENAISSANCE: THE SCHOOL OF FREDERICK CORDER
York Bowen: Two Preludes for Horn and Piano
Joseph Holbrooke: Eulalie, ballade for horn and piano, Op.94b*
Arnold Bax: Sonata for Piano and Horn (1901)
Joseph Holbrooke: Horn Trio in D Minor, Op. 28
* Subject to Richard Holbrooke (copyright holder and guardian of Joseph Holbrooke’s manuscripts)’s approval
THE PARIS CONSERVATOIRE: GOLDEN AGE OF HAND HORN PLAYING
Jacques François Gallay: Selections from his 12 Grands Caprices
François Joseph Naderman and Frédéric Duvernoy: Nocturne for Horn and Harp, No. 2
Louis-François Dauprat: Air Écossais Varié for horn & harp, Op. 22
Joseph Mengal: Romance
Jacques-François Gallay: Fantaisie sur 'L'elisir d'amore', Op.46
Below are articles written by Isaac for Rehearsal Magazine’s My Rehearsal Room!
PART ONE: FINDING MY OWN SOUND IN THE CLASSICAL REALM
"Horn is often regarded as the most difficult orchestral instrument. So why would I want to make my life harder by taking the valves out of horn and blow into an instrument that is as unpredictable as Melbourne’s weather?
Initially, I saw it as a challenge, playing difficult pieces on the natural horn by using only my lips and hand-stopping techniques........"
PART TWO: RETRACING THE PAST, RESHAPING THE FUTURE
"The natural horn in many ways is an instrument of self-discovery. There is no one definitive method of playing. Different people have different sized and shaped hands, and it is through these connecting series of individualised hand gestures that the melodic lines in music are formed......It shifts the focus from the final outcome of performances to the process behind creating and recreating great art........."
MY ORCHESTRA PROJECT: ISAAC SHIEH
"People always asked me why I want to become a musician. But when it comes to answering that question, it tends to revolve around the word ‘passion’ in an ambiguous way. I feel that at times, the phrase ‘a passion for music’ gets thrown around so much that it becomes vague and non-musicians still don’t get what you are on about and probably think you are slightly crazy (which in my case that might be true but let’s not focus on the negatives here)........"
Photo 1: Samuel Middleton Photography
Photo 2: The Five Musketeers (Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) at Daylight Music 298 in the Union Chapel, by Paul Carrano
Photo 3: RWCMD President’s Dinner at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Foyer, by Richard Bosworth