"On this planet", notes poet Robert Biy in his brief sleeve notes, “we are born again and again". Keith Jarrett would agree that his periodic returns to the solo concert format amount to a series of rebirths, the extended improvisations charged each time by life lessons learned in the interim, both inside and outside the music. In this sense, it is possible to view the entire solo oeuvre as a diary that mirrors Jarrett's progress as an improvisor, a progress inevitably influenced by his numerous parallel projects. Jarrett: "The evaluation process in improvising is one of the fastest things I know and there is only time to be who we really are at the moment."
Paramountly, the Jarrett heard on the Vienna Concert – recorded just three days after his immersion in Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues – is a different player from the Jarrett of the Köin Concert, say, or the Sun Bear tour. The music, in fact, bears scant relation even to the Paris Concert, Jarrett's prior set of solo piano improvisations, taped in 1988. Keith Jarrett defined the difference poetically: “I have courted the fire for a very long time, and many sparks have flown in the past, but the music on this recording speaks, finally, the language of the flame itself.”
The music is in every sense clearer here – and not merely because of the exceptional recording quality. Disciplined, doubtless, by the demands of the Shostakovich, Jarrett's articulation in this performance from the Vienna State Opera – the first purely instrumental recital given in that hall – is crisper than ever, and his right and left -hand independence often staggering. As Jarrett reins in his freer instincts, melodic ideas are permitted to unfold with the rigorous logic of composition and emotion is evoked by a resistance of a more easily attained emotionality. “It's a matter of awareness", the pianist once said. "You have to know all of the gauges, you have to be watching them all of the time. There has to be a way of restraining at the right moment ..."