It would be hardmake that nearly impossibleto find an American
classical guitarist more influential than Sharon Isbin. Her jaw-dropping
technique and lyrical interpretations have helped bring the guitar into
the classical mainstream, and a rather spectacular array of new
masterworks has been written expressly for her. So it was a treat to
hear Isbin perform Friday night at the Church of the Epiphany, where she
combined staples of the repertoire with newer works that pushed the
guitar into provocative, edgy new realms.
The theme of the program was memorythe composer looking back, as
Isbin put itand there was a certain
emotion-recollected-in-tranquillity tone to the evening. A genial little
samba by Isaias Savio got things rolling, followed by Isaac Albenizs
Mallorca and mesmerizing Asturias, light-filled works tossed off
with great charm and color. But the music turned darkerand infinitely
strangerwith Benjamin Brittens Nocturnal After John Dowland,
Op. 70. Dating from 1963, its a wildly imaginative masterpiece, a
phantasmagoric journey through the feverish and often unsettling world
of the subconscious. Isbin, who conjures an extraordinary palette of
sound from her instrument, turned in a wonderfully shadowy reading that
resolved with great tenderness into Dowlands original theme. The effect
was like waking from a deep and compelling dream.
The evenings second half was nearly as intriguing. Bruce MacCombies
Nightshade Rounds, with its shimmering cascades of repeated notes, was
written for Isbin more than three decades ago but is still a delight,
and Andrew Yorks agreeable, folk-flavored Andecy served as a sort of
resting spot among the more adventurous works on the program. And few
new works are as adventurous as Seven Desires for Guitar, written for
Isbin by the Chinese composer Tan Dun. Combining flamenco-style
foot-stomping with the bent notes of the ancient Chinese pipa, its a
freewheeling work with a kind of elemental energy and anything-goes,
postmodern lack of inhibition. Agustin Barrios Mangores classic La
Catedral closed the program, interrupted faintlyand a bit poeticallyby
the bells of the church.
Theres something about classical guitar that just blows me away. The
classical worlds version of shred is so technically mind-boggling and
gorgeously rendered at the same time. And Grammy Award-winning guitarist
Sharon Isbin is truly a master of this genre.
Isbins been an acclaimed performer for many years, but its her new
album that elevates classical guitar to a whole new level. On
, available on Sony Records today,
August 30, Isbin collaborates with a cadre of diverse guitar virtuosos
such as Steve Vai, Steve Morse, Stanley Jordan and Nancy
Wilson. She masterfully captures whats unique about each performers
personality and style and melds it into a new guitarified creation.
Im paying tribute to my guitar heroes, Isbin says. These are artists
whom I admire greatly, who are also heroes in their own realms.
Isbins team of collaborators is a perfect match for the Latin American
flair that resonates throughout the album. Vai improvises on La
Catedral, written by Paraguayan composer Agustin Barrios Mangore.
Stanley Jordan shows off his jazz chops in Sonidos de aquel dia,
composed by Argentinean Quique Sinesi. Drawing on influences from
countries including Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia and Spain,
Isbin eloquently incorporates Latin flavors in each song of the album.
Her rendition of Dreamboat Annie with Hearts very own Nancy Wilson
unexpectedly showcases some Latin tang. Isbin explains, We put in a
little bossa nova instrumental at the end to make it part of the whole
instead of the exception!
Most impressively, seven of the 11 titles are premiere recordings. Isbin
profoundly appreciates the masterpiece album she has created with her
friends. Its only when I step back afterwards that I can say, Ah!
Thats why it happened! Its our passion for the guitar and musical
discovery that has brought us all together.
Monday, May 16, 2011, Music Review
Classical Guitarist Making Herself Heard
By Allan Kozinn
The classical guitar is mostly a solitary instrument, partly because the
greatest works written for it are in the solo repertory. So even though
its concerto repertory has grown prodigiously since the late 1930s and
is plentifully available on recordings, opportunities to hear guitarists
play concertos in concert remain comparatively rare.
Brian Harkin for The New York Times
Sharon Isbin performed with the Salomé
Chamber Orchestra at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The technical problem should no longer be so daunting now that
guitarists routinely use subtle amplification, as Sharon Isbin did in
her performance with the Salomé Chamber Orchestra on Saturday
evening at the Metropolitan Museum. Ms. Isbin uses a system that lets
her be heard but preserves the poetry and warmth of the guitars
timbre: her sound was rounded and buttery throughout the
The evening was very much hers. Though the orchestra, which performs
standing and without a conductor, gave a glowing account of Elgars
Introduction and Allegro (Op. 47), it mostly collaborated with Ms. Isbin
on concertos and a chamber piece.
The program opened with Vivaldis Concerto in D (RV 93), originally
for the lute. Ms. Isbin took a relaxed, easygoing approach, even in the
bright outer movements. But if her focus was on precision and
directness, she sacrificed nothing in energy. As in her Virgin and
Warner recordings of the work, she was generous with ornamentation in
the repeated sections. In the Adagio especially, she expanded freely on
Vivaldis slow-moving, introspective melody and adorned phrase
endings with cross-string trills, which, unlike the easier and more
common single variety, have the clarity and definition of a keyboard
Ms. Isbin took a similarly mellow approach to Rodrigos
Fantasía Para un Gentilhombre, a 1954 meditation on
dances by the 17th-century Spanish composer Gaspar Sanz. Usually this
fantasia is played as a straightforward dialogue between guitar and
orchestra, each presenting Rodrigos elaborations on the Sanz
pieces with equal zest. Ms. Isbin, instead, created the illusion of
historical distance, as if the guitar line represented Sanzs
voice, with the orchestra providing Rodrigos commentary. (That
said, she was at her most arresting in the very un-Sanzian harplike
cadenza in the finale.)
Between the Vivaldi and Rodrigo works, Ms. Isbin and a quartet from the
orchestra (a quintet if you count the castanet and tambourine player,
who joined in for the Fandango finale) gave a brisk account of
Boccherinis Quintet No. 4 (G. 448). Ms. Isbin also played two solo
works: a lovely account of Tárregas Capricho
Arabe in which her rhythmically free reading of the introductory
filigree suggested the sound of an oud, and Andrew Yorks pleasant
October 22, 2009
Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin shines in performance with Nashville Symphony
By Russell Johnston
Guitar with orchestra has historically been an unusual pairing, but
six-string virtuoso Sharon Isbin is changing that. Shes on the short
list of todays top classical guitarists, and her performance last
Friday with the Nashville Symphony for Classical Guitar, German
Genius, was an ear-opening demonstration of the instruments
The orchestra was in fine form under the baton of guest conductor John
Fiore, whose reading of the overture and Venusberg Music from Wagners
Tannhäuser translated into a compelling performance. Their transparent
sound clarified how Wagners distinctive and often unexpected harmonies
emerge from intertwining melodic strands.
Isbin has done much to increase her instruments repertoire; Christopher
Rouses Concert de Gaudí was the ninth guitar concerto she has
commissioned or premiered (her recording of this engaging work earned a
Grammy award in 2002).
Flamenco-flavored strumming and castanets quickly place the piece in a
Spanish sound-world, but this is no pasticheRouse works the ethnic
materials into a somewhat surreal, dreamlike fabric. Though it nominally
follows a classic three-movement template, the concerto has a fluidity
of form echoing the hallucinatory quality of Antoni Gaudís
architecture, which inspired the work.
Rouses guitar writing is highly idiomatic, giving Isbin a great
platform to showcase the instruments many colors and techniques. She
ranged from a huge, rich tone in the melodic middle movement to a
penetrating, tightly focused sound in more rapid-fire sections, and her
tremolo was staggeringly smooth.
The orchestral palette was just as colorful as the soloists, with its
lush string backdrops, dissonant but halo-like chords in the winds,
subtle and effective percussion. Rouse suggests a breath of wind by
combining a shimmering cymbal with some hissing into the trombones,
which sounds a lot more gimmicky in prose than it did in performance.
Isbin, who returned to the stage after the concerto for a pleasant
rendition of guitarist/composer Andrew Yorks folk-flavored Andecy, has
a simple solution to the balance problems that have typically plagued
guitarists on the orchestral platformamplification. Now, dont get
squeamish: She didnt plug into a Fender Twin Reverb. Low-lying speakers
directly behind her onstage blended naturally with the acoustic
instrument, creating no aural confusion about the soloists location.
This way, she did not have to sacrifice subtlety to be heard, and the
orchestra was not hamstrung by trying to stay out of her way.
Fiores tasteful pacing effectively conveyed both the breezy lyricism
and the Beethovenian developmental propulsion of Robert Schumanns
Symphony No. 3. Intermission wasnt sufficient to clear away Rouses
varied orchestration; perhaps thats why Schumanns instrumental
textures felt a bit heavy. Though the program order was conventional,
opening the concert with this piece may have helped listeners hear it
more sympathetically. That question aside, the performance was certainly
well-executed, and particularly enjoyable was the organ-like feel of the
contrapuntal fourth movement, where Schumann puts his somewhat blocky
orchestration to evocative use.
With a varied and interesting repertoire, top-notch soloists and an
orchestra more polished than ever, the Nashville Symphony is off to a
great start this season. If you havent made it down to the Schermerhorn
Center yet this fall, stop procrastinating and get yourself a ticket.
Publicado el martes 21 de julio del 2009, MIAMI
Sharon Isbin, la intimidad de la guitarra
By Daniel Fernandez
Desde muy temprana edad Sharon Isbin comenzó a cosechar premios y
distinciones con su instrumento, la guitarra. Heredera de la tradición
de sus más insignes maestros: Segovia, Díaz, Minella, Turek, se mantiene
como una de las guitarristas más buscadas y gustadas, como quedó
demostrado en el recital que ofreciera el jueves 16, en la Cogregational
Church de Coral Gables, como parte de la Summer Series de ese templo.
Comenzó la noche con una estilizada Batucada, de Isaias Savio, seguida
de un difícil y sabroso Estudio, de Villa-Lobos en edición de
Barbosa-Lima; pero fue en la siguiente obra, donde pudo apreciarse con
mayor profundidad el nivel interpretativo y la irreprochable técnica de
Isbin, El decamerón negro, de Brouwer, obra en tres partes compuesta
Brouwer ha logrado un exitoso sincretismo de lo afrocubano con las
armonías atonales y la guitarrista parece muy identificada con el sabor
latinoamericano; aunque su repertorio es vasto en tiempo y espacio. En
esta obra difícil y sensual, se mostró siempre en absoluto control.
Las tres últimas piezas de la primera parte de la noche fueron clásicos
de la guitarra, epítomes de la escuela y el alma españolas: Danza
española no. 5, de Granados; Recuerdos de Alhambra, de Tárrega, y
Asturias, de Albéniz. Aquí la intérprete no sólo se dio un gusto bien
visible, sino que hizo gala de su técnica, especialmente en la filigrana
acuática que abre la de Tárrega. Isbin gusta de tomar las obras
hacia el extremo más lento, enriqueciendo en intensidad los pasajes y
elaborando sus frases de manera que se establezca su personalidad sin
quebrar la tradición.
Pero si bien en los clásicos de la guitarra Isbin se lució, no menos
brillante quedó en la segunda parte del programa con un repertorio más
cercano. Primero Joan Baez Suite, op. 144, de John Duarte, también
compuesta para ella, por encargo de la Augustine Foundation. En siete
partes, esta obra recrea para la guitarra algunas de las canciones que
llevaran a Baez a la fama mundial en la década de 1960. Especialmente
evocadora y bella es la parte VI) Where Have All the Flowers Gone? que se siente como muy cercana a la
La siguiente oferta resultó posiblemente el momento más hermoso y mágico
de la noche, el Capricho árabe, de Tárrega, que Isbin entregó con
especial sensualidad y magia. Luego el Zapateado, de Regino Sainz de la
Maza, puso un poco de velocidad en los hábiles dedos de Isbin, para
cerrar finalmente con dos valses, uno venezolano y otro peruano, el Vals
no. 3, de Antonio Lauro, y el Vals op.8, #4, de Agustín Barrios Mangoré.
Durante toda la noche, la guitarrista presentaba sus piezas y hacia
comentarios más o menos informativos o chistosos, antes de los valses,
comentó que el día anterior había partido desde Venecia para llegar a
Miami después de un vuelo de 21 horas. Quizá para hacer saber al público
cautivo que se encontraba cansada y que no podía esperar muchos encores.
También habló de su reciente disco Journey to the New World con Baez y
el formidable violinista y compositor Mark OConnor.
Y así fue, a pesar de la ovación de pie, al concluir sus exquisitas
entregas de los valses, Isbin sólo regaló un hermoso número, su propio
arreglo de la obra de Naomi Shemer Jerusalem de oro. Fue una noche muy
especial con una de las leyendas vivas de la guitarra.
© 2009 El Nuevo Herald. All Rights Reserved.
July 18, 2009
A masterful Isbin reigns over the classical guitar
By David Fleshler
The guitar occupies a difficult place in the classical-music world. Long
a preeminent pop-music instrument, it has a relatively small classical
repertoire and the opportunity for only one or two real stars to emerge
every generation. Sharon Isbin, who performed Thursday in Coral Gables,
is the instruments reigning star. Her classical credentials are
impeccable: Grammy winner; first guitarist to make a recording with the
New York Philharmonic, founder and chair of Juilliards guitar
department. Beyond the concert hall, she appears frequently on NPRs All
and A Prairie Home Companion
, and she performed for
the soundtrack of Martin Scorceses The Departed
Her drawing power was clear in her performance at Coral Gables
Congregational Church for the Community Arts Program summer series, as
organizers set up extra chairs to handle the crowd.
Isbins manner is dramatic. As she plays, she closes her eyes and leans
into the guitar or holds her head up as if staring into the distance.
But there wasnt a hint of showing off in her playing, despite her clear
mastery of the instrument. Difficult rapid notes and complex
accompanying passages came off without strain, as Isbin appeared to put
all her energy into drawing out the music. Her palette of tone colors
was vastrounded, bell-like tones for melodies in the upper strings
for the Granados Spanish Dance No. 5;delicate tremolos for Tarregas
famous, mandolin-like Recuerdos de la Alhambra
; sharp needle thrusts and
grand sweeps of the right hand for Albenizs even more famous Asturias
Isbin has a commendable history of commissioning new works for guitar by
composers including John Corigliano, Lukas Foss and Joseph Schwantner.
Her Coral Gables performance including two works written for her.
The first was the engagingly atmospheric Black Decameron
by the Cuban
composer Leo Brouwer, a meditative, harmonically rich work inspired by
African love songs. The second commissioned was John Duartes 2002 Joan
, a seven-movement piece that takes such songs as The House of
the Rising Sun
and Where Have all the Flowers Gone
and elaborates on
them with unusual harmonies and bits of classical repertoire, such as
Purcells aria When I am Laid in Earth
and Schuberts song Trockne
. If any instrument can make connections between the classical and
popular worlds, its the guitar.
Isbins superb musicianship and effortless technique came off best in
the more idiomatic works of Albeniz, Tarrega and a few others who took
best advantage of the guitars melodic and harmonic capabilities.
September 18, 2008
Guitarist Sharon Isbin creates rare, totally hushed moment
By David Hawley, Special to the Pioneer Press
The Minnesota Orchestra launched its 106th season Thursday with the traditional playing of the Star
Spangled Banner and also marked the states sesquicentennial with a stirring new orchestration of Hail!
Minnesota that ought to be added to the orchestras annual season-opening flourishes.
Hail! Minnesota, in case youve forgotten, is the official state song, written in 1904 by Truman E. Rickard
and reportedly inspired by the composers camping trip to some northern wilderness. Steve Heitzegs new
arrangement manages to provide both a triumphant fanfare and a tender ode while still offering stanzas that
can be sung by an audience.
From there, attention turned to works written in or inspired by Spanish-speaking countries, featuring another
welcome appearance by Minnesota-born guitarist Sharon Isbin.
The titled theme of the opening program is Viva Espana, and I suspect it was constructed around the
appearance of Isbin performing her acclaimed interpretation of Joaquin Rodrigos Concierto de Aranjuez.
Probably the most popular piece ever written for guitar and full orchestra, its part of Isbins core repertoire,
and its been said her interpretation is the one Rodrigo preferred.
But dont worry about Isbin telephoning it in. Her first performance Thursdayparticularly when she played
the achingly tender second movementcreated one of those rare, totally hushed moments that dont occur
often enough in the concert hall. Isbin is themaster of this piece and seemingly discovers it anew each time
she plays it.
The other highlight of the program was Alberto Ginasteras Variaciones concertantes, a set of two
interludes and seven variations that has a notable connection to this orchestra. The American premiere of
the work was given here in 1953 and Conductor Antal Dorati recorded it with the orchestra the following
Its a great showpiece, offering solo work for various single or paired instruments before ending in a highvoltage
gaucho dance. Fittingly for the start of a season, it provided a showcase for the depth of this bands
musicianshipincluding solo turns for such seldom-spotlighted instruments as double bass and viola.
The program also included an up-tempo version of Chabriers familiar Espana, which opened the concert
nicely but seemed like a bon-bon; and the second suite from Manuel de Fallas ballet, The Three-Cornered
Hat. The concert closer was Coplands El Salon Mexico, which brought a Gershwinesque jazziness to
Hispanic tunes and finished with a slam-bang.
Minnesota Orchestra performs music inspired by Spanish-speaking countries. Soloist: Guitarist
College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph.
March 6, 2008
Guitarist Isbin a knockout with CSO
By Kyle MacMillan
Its amazing that 13 years have passed since the Colorado
Symphonys last performance of Joaquin Rodrigos Concierto
de Aranjuez, given the guitar showpieces innate popular
That this work is not a fixture on symphonic programs, as it
deserves to be, says a great deal about the guitars
historically secondary status as a solo instrument.
But its standing is clearly on the rise, as evidenced Friday
evening at Boettcher Concert Hall by the unusually fervidand
richly deservedovations for guitarist Sharon Isbin,
who made her long-overdue debut with the symphony.
In what proves to be a knock-out combination, she merges
extraordinary technical facility with a clean, lithe style,
and, perhaps most important, the evocative power of a keen
For her Denver appearance, Isbin performed two of the most
beloved orchestral works for solo guitar, starting with
Antonio Vivaldis Guitar Concerto in D major, RV 93, with a
suitably intimate ensemble of 19 musicians.
As wonderfully sprightly as the opening is, the slow second
movement is the focal point, and Isbin performed this
enchanting section with leisurely delicacy, conjuring the
seeming timelessness of a lazy spring afternoon.
The Concierto de Aranjuez (1937) is meant to be a
virtuosic guitar showcase, and Isbin made sure it was, not
with needless flash and flourishes but with artful and
expressive musicianship. If the first movement of this
high-spirited, folk-flavored work was less emphatic than
some versionsmore smoldering embers than flamesit was
no less expressive.
As in the Vivaldi, the highlight is the slow second
movement, and here her abilities as musical storyteller were
most evident as she offered a soulful, penetrating take on
Rodrigos powerful music.
As an encore, Isbin presented Francisco Tárregas Recuerdos
de la Alhambra, with her fluttering fingers casting an
Ending the evening were two masterworks by Claude Debussy,
including La Mer, which pose enormous interpretative
challenges. Conductor Scott ONeil conveyed the basic sense
of these pieces but little of the ethereal transcendency
they can attain.
Friday, March 9, 2007
Classical guitar master Sharon Isbin shines at Scott
By Matthew Erikson
, Star-Telegram Staff Writer
FORT WORTHHow do we love guitarist Sharon Isbin? Let us count the
Thursday evening at Scott Theatre, Isbin was the featured performer for
the Fort Worth Classic Guitar Societys recital series, one that
regularly brings in distinguished performers.
Yet theres something special about Isbin. As a woman in a
male-dominated field, Isbin has been a trailblazer in more ways than
most classical musicians could ever dream.
Her teachers include the legendary Andres Segovia and piano doyenne
Rosalyn Tureck. Shes the first guitarist to record with the New York
Philharmonic. Whats more, Isbin has had no difficulty straddling the
worlds of classical music and pop culture; her playing is on the
soundtrack of the film The Departed.
She won a Grammy in 2001 and has
commissioned a whopping number of works for guitar.
Three of those commissionsworks by Leo Brouwer, John Duarte and Tan
Dunwere heard in Thursdays mostly Latin and folk-flavored program.
Isbins artistry made every one of the assorted pieces shine.
Impeccable voicing and a bell-like clarity added excitement to the samba
rhythms of Isaias Savios Batucada,
the evenings curtain-raiser.
Evocative narrative-inspired pieces by Gaudencio Thiago de Mello and
Brouwer (his Black Decameron
) displayed a gorgeous dynamic range and a
gift for interpretative color.
Isbin demonstrated a singers cantabile and supple phrasing throughout a
lovely set of pieces by Spanish composers Granados, Tarrega and Albeniz.
Duartes Joan Baez Suite
and Tans Seven Desires for Guitar
testaments to Isbins versatility. They were also the most intriguing
works of the evening. Baezs folk-like strains were given polyphonic,
richly hued treatment in Duartes touching work. Tans exotic music was
brilliantly rendered with its percussive embellishments and strumming
sounds simulating a Chinese lute.
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Isbin fills Caruth with refined guitar playing
By Scott Cantrell
/ Classical Music Critic
Darnell Renee / Special Contributor
Sharon Isbin brought an amazing range of color and texture to her
performance at Southern Methodist Universitys Caruth Auditorium.
If there were any doubts of the guitars potential for elegance, they
were laid to rest Tuesday evening by Sharon Isbin. Classical guitars
reigning diva came to Southern Methodist Universitys Caruth Auditorium
and, in an enterprising program ranging from the 19th to the 21st
century, put on quite a show of sophisticated musicianship.
Ms. Isbin used every decibel to telling effect, while cultivating an
amazing range of color and texture. And she could have taught many a
pianist and conductor a lot about rhythm and its subtleties.
There was a fair bit of typical feel-good Spanish and Latin-American
music. Ms. Isbin brought the loveliest improvisational feeling to
Enrique Granados Spanish Dance No. 5 and generously expressive pliancy
to Francisco Tárregas Recuerdos de la Alhambra.
Its hard to imagine
more enchanting performances of dances by the Spaniard Regino Sainz de
la Maza, the Brazilian Isaias Savio and the Paraguayan Agustin Barrios
But Ms. Isbin has also been a muse for numerous living composers, and
the program included three significant works penned for her.
From the Chinese-born American composer Tan Dun came Seven Desires for
arranged by Dr. Tan in 2000 from his earlier guitar concerto for
Ms. Isbin. This deftly mixed echoes of foot-stamping, guitar-slapping
flamenco with the twangy, pitch-tweaking idioms of traditional Chinese
music for the stringed instrument called the pipa.
A Joan Baez Suite
by English composer John Duarte was an imaginative
seven-movement sendup of songs associated with the American folk singer.
From a bit of neoclassical counterpoint for Once I Had a Sweetheart to
stark open fifths accompanying The Unquiet Grave to gently surprising
harmonies for House of the Rising Sun, this certainly refreshed
African love stories were the inspiration for The Black Decameron,
1981 triptych by Cuban guitarist-composer Leo Brouwer. Ms. Isbin worked
particular magic here with colors, in The Maiden in Love layering no
fewer than three different tone qualities, from pingy to quietly creamy.
The printed program devoted a page apiece to Ms. Isbin and the Allegro
Guitar Society of Dallas, which presented the recital, but not an inch
to notes on the music. But, in a pleasantly unassuming way, Ms. Isbin
supplied useful spoken introductions.
February 13, 2001 - Page D03 - Music Review
Sharon Isbin plays beyond virtuosity
By Michael Manning, Globe Correspondent
Sometime after the 60s, the guitar replaced the piano as the most
widely abused instrument. But the upside of that spike in interest was a
small group of American guitarists, now enjoying the full maturity of
middle age, whove inspired a significant new guitar repertoire while
bringing the instrument, with its old repertoire intact, into the 21st
century. Principal among these artists is Sharon Isbin, whose
FleetBoston Celebrity Series recital took place Saturday night in Jordan
Isbins artistry thwarts the kind of analytical listening that usually
informs notices like this. This listener found such analysis trivial in
the face of the overwhelming humanity and emotionality of Isbins
playing. To be clear, Im not talking about turgid, hyperbolic
sentiment, nor am I suggesting in any way a paucity of intelligence or
the supplanting of coherence with impulse. Neither is it implied that
Isbin is anything less than a traditional virtuosa. Its just that her
playing connects in ways that are deeply instinctual and natural,
drawing one into the moment like the best storytelling does. One garners
feelings from her playingnot abstractions of emotion, but nameable
feelings such as melancholy, nostalgia, and happiness.
If theres a warhorse in the guitars repertoire, its Francisco
Tarregas trembling portrait of a medieval Spanish citadel, Recuerdos
de la Alhambra. Isbins performance was full of the remembrance that
the title explicitly names. Enrique Granadoss Spanish Dance No. 5 is
another well-worn concert morsel. Originally written for piano, its
braying grace notes and need for licentious rubato and quick shifts of
color make it guitar piece nearly perfect for virtuosi like Isbin.
Of late, Isbin has been collaborating with the Brazilian percussionist
Gaudencio Thiago de Mello, with whom she shared half of this program. On
a range of instruments, from rainsticks to turtle shells to ceramic jugs
to what appeared simply to be a wooden box, de Mello produced
extraordinary sounds. Hes one of those percussionists who constantly
plays melody; he shapes rhythms with the sensibilities of a poet,
coloring like an instrumentalist, phrasing like a singer.
Its sufficient to say of his compositions that they are beautiful. But
theyre also gentle, hypnotic, bewitching, and beguilingstylistically
crossing Antonio Carlos Jobim with Paul Winter. Just to hear the
elaborate, polytonal song of the rare Amazonian bird uirapuru, woven by
tape into one of his pieces, would have redeemed the entire evening. But
the evening comprised so much more than individual moments, achieving
what few events of any kind domeaning.
© Copyright 2001 Globe Newspaper Company
June 5, 2000
Sharon Isbin at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
A journey of a thousand colors begins with the artistry of Sharon Isbin
By John von Rhein Chicago Tribune Music Critic
If the critic James Gibbons Huneker were still around to write his
inimitable critical prose, he would call Sharon Isbin a pianississimist.
She gets nuances out of the classical guitar few guitarists since
Segovia have matched. Everything she performs bespeaks perfect technical
control yet suggests spontaneous improvisation-the art that conceals
Her instrument speaks with a thousand colors and those colors were
marvelously arrayed at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Saturday night, when
the American guitar virtuoso presented a recital to close the
seasons Segovia Classical Guitar series, sponsored by the
Northwestern University School of Music and the Chicago Classical Guitar
The guitar is an intimate instrument, one much better suited to a
private salon than a large concert hall. Through her formidable artistry
and with the help of her custom-built wireless sound reinforcement
system, Isbin succeeded in striking a happy medium. Even when her
playing sank to a confidential whisper, her tone had body and impact,
and she was free to commune with the audience through her music.
No guitarist is more eager to embrace the many worlds that the classical
guitar can bridge. Isbins program, including selections from two
of her Teldec albums, Dreams of a World and Journey to
the Amazon, offered an engaging tour of classical and folk
The guitarist ventured from the Brazilian rainforest to Venezuela, Cuba,
Spain, Israel and the Appalachian Mountains. Her artistry is such that
she spoke every musical dialect like a native.
Raptly engaged in her playing as much as in her spoken introductions to
each piece, the audience clearly enjoyed the ride. The subtleties of her
soft dynamics required a degree of close concentration from her
listeners, which Im happy to report they gave her.
Her obviously deep love of the instrument and its traditions is matched
by her flawless intonation, clarity of articulation and ability to spin
a warm singing line as subtly and sensitively as any classical recital
Rhythmic urgency and a command of a vast color palette seem second
nature to her. In Tarregas Recuerdos de la Alhambra
(Memories of the Alhambra) she kept the melody distinct over an
accompaniment suggesting multiple strummed guitars.
Her playing was positively hypnotic in Granados
Leyenda (WFMTs familiar signature music), whose
ostinato figure she traced in a crescendo of gathering intensity.
The South American portion of her world tour was particularly noteworthy
because of the unfamiliar composers and pieces it turned up. Isbin sang
tenderly (Antonio Lauros Waltz No. 3, Natalia)
before launching into an infectiously spirited Brazilian samba by Isaias
Savio (Batucada) such as one might encounter during
I would like to have heard the rainforest percussion
obbligato to Guadencio Thiago de Mellos Uirapuru do
Amazonas but was delighted to discover the piece so
beautifully played in solo form.
Isbin has worked with numerous composers to bring new music into the
world, and three such worksmusic written for her or arranged by herwere
included in her program.
Leo Brouwers absorbing The Black Decameron (1981)
seasons Afro-Cuban melodies and rhythms with some mild harmonic spice.
Isbins arrangements of four songs by the Israeli composer Naomi
Shemerher countrys troubadour poetpay heartfelt tribute to
the soil and soul of a people.
Best of all was British composer John Duartes five-part suite
Appalachian Dreams (1996), settings of nine folk songs
that cover an extraordinary range of timbres, textures and moods,
including a down-and-dirty bluegrass-guitar treatment of Darling
Cora. All three works were splendidly played, as was
Granados Spanish Dance No. 5, played as an encore.