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Two From Sharon Isbin on Zoho Music

Jerome Wilson By

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Sharon Isbin is well established as one of the world's great classical guitarists. These two new releases show the range of her talents as she explores various other genres such as jazz and Indian classical music.

Sharon Isbin
Affinity
Zoho Music
2020

The jazz element figures into the major part of this release, "Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra" written by Chris Brubeck and performed with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Isbin plays nimble runs that demonstrate her guitar prowess against the orchestra's sweeping flourishes that at different times, suggest flamenco, blues and the string writing of jazz composer Eddie Sauter. The music moves from tender to ferocious over the course of the piece with Isbin flying enthusiastically through the openings the orchestra gives her.

The other pieces on this album are all in solo and duo settings. There are two solo guitar works. Leo Brouwer's suite, "El Decameron Negro" has a Spanish setting. Isbin alternates brisk flurries of notes and tender lyrical passages before expanding into quieter, more thoughtful figures. The music eventually settles into a quiet, folkish unease that utilizes the guitar's lower range. Tan Dun's "Seven Desires for Guitar" is a complex web of sound where the guitarist combines the violent attack of flamenco with intricate string manipulation that approximates the high, eerie sounds of the Chinese lute known as the pipa. As for duo performances, Isbin does a brief but deliriously romantic duet with guitarist Colin Davin on Antonio Lauro's "Waltz No. 3 Matilda" and a song cycle with soprano Isabel Leonard on Richard Danielpour's "Of Love And Longing." Here she largely plays subdued chords and fragments in support of Leonard's powerful voice but breaks out into rich melody on "This Night Of Love" becoming a full musical partner to the singer.

Sharon Isbin
Strings For Peace
Zoho Music
2020

On this CD, Isbin dives wholeheartedly into the world of North Indian classical music playing raga-based pieces written for her by sarod master Amjad Ali Khan. The sarod is played on each track by either Khan or one of his two sons.

On "By The Moon -Raga Behag" Isbin exchanges string bending solos with Amaan Ali Bangash that slowly build in intensity until tabla player Amit Kavthekar joins in and the tempo suddenly increases. The sarod and guitar then go on individual wild journeys, flaring and swooping through fast-stepping paths. "Love Avalanche -Raga Mishra Bhairav" has Ayaan Ali Bagash and Isbin exchanging swaying, lyrical lines for four minutes. The lead instruments are woven together more closely on "Romancing Earth -Raga Pilu." Isbin enhances Khan's long, twisting notes with faint strums before playing her own shimmering, lamenting music. Her guitar sound really adapts to the Indian setting even when the piece moves into a swaying waltz rhythm. "Sacred Evening— Raga Yaman" reflects its title with its descending melody and air of quiet reflection. Isbin's playing is thoughtful and poignant, her picking resonating against the droning and stinging sounds behind her. She really shows her affinity for Indian music on this project and stirs up a stimulating brew with her fellow musicians.

Tracks and Personnel

Affinity

Tracks: Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra; El Decameron Negro: El Arpa del Guerrero -La Huida de los Amantes por el Valle de los Ecos— Balada de la Doncella Enamorada; Waltz No. 3 Natalia; Seven Desires for Guitar; Of Love and Longing: Listen... -This Night of Love... -Your Beauty... .

Personnel: Sharon Isbin: guitar; Maryland Symphony Orchestra/Elizabeth Schulze, conductor (1); Isabel Leonard: voice (7-9); Colin Davin: guitar (5).

Strings for Peace

Tracks: By The Moon -Raga Behag; Love Avalanche -Raga Mishra Bhairav; Romancing Earth -Raga Pilu; Sacred Evening -Raga Yaman.

Personnel: Sharon Isbin: guitar; Amjad Ali Khan: sarod (3); Amaan Ali Bangash: sarod (1); Ayaan Ali Bangash: sarod (2,4); Amit Kavthekar: tabla.

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