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Wayfaring Stranger: Songs for voice and guitar
Five American Folksongs (arranged by Carlos Barbarosa-Lima and John Jacob Niles)
Four Bergerettes - 18th Century French Folksongs (arranged by Siegfried Behrend, revised by Sharon Isbin)
Four French Folksongs (arranged by Mátyás Seiber)
Joaquin RODRIGO (1901-1999)

Aranjuez, ma pensée (text by Victoria Kamhi)
Regino SAINZ de la MAZA (1896-1981)

Enrique GRANADOS (1867-1916)

Spanish Dance No.5 (arr. Miguel Llobet)
Jean-Paul MARTINI (1741-1816)

Plaisir d'amour (arr. Laurindo Almeida)
Francisco TÁRREGA (1852-1909)

Capricho Arabe
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

ThreeLieder (Ständchen; Heidenröslein; Nachtstück)
Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano
Sharon Isbin, guitar
Recorded in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NYC, 25th-29th March 1998.
WARNER ELATUS 2564 61755-2 [68.20]


My benchmark for "classical" guitar and vocal recitals remains the timeless Wilfred Brown and John Williams survey of folksongs from Europe and North America (still available on the Belart label?). This Elatus reissue is an excellent and varied showcase for the brilliant contemporary guitarist Sharon Isbin and mezzo Susanne Mentzer. Isbin's finest hour, to these ears, came with the subsequent Dreams of a World, a solo guitar record, centred around John Duarte's sublime Appalachian Dreams, but also featuring compositions from sources as diverse as Takemitsu and Theodorakis. This recital is perhaps slightly less far-reaching but still offers several world premieres, including three of the five American Folksongs. We also get Rodrigo's heartrending arrangement of the slow movement from the famous Concierto de Aranjuez to lyrics by his wife, in memoriam their lost, stillborn first child. Unfortunately, since this first recording, the purveyors of a desultory crossover record has seen fit to demean the meaning and dignity it embodies. Pieces by Tárrega and Granados (arr. Llobet), the latter amazingly never composed for guitar himself, keep up the Spanish connection. The Five American Folksongs shares with Appalachian Dreams, the song Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair, here arranged by American folk-collecting legend John Jacob Niles. Like the other featured themes, it reminds us of the British (English and Irish!) traditions which live on in the folk musics of rural America. The performers do the music and its arrangers complete justice.

Schubert represents one of this listener's musical blind spots but I cannot imagine the selections included here being surpassed; likewise, the 18th century French folksongs, where Isbin takes her cue from the great German guitarist Siegfried Behrend, a relatively early exponent of Rodrigo (also still available on Belart?). The disc concludes with more French folksong arrangements, this time by Seiber, a composer whose star seems to be a little more in the ascendant than it once was. The set here, written originally for Pears and Bream, no less, is in keeping with the rhythmic fecundity of more familiar pieces of his such as the Clarinet Concertino. All in all, this is an ambitious and successful recording, fully deserving of a wider audience on its reissue at mid-price. I hope it encourages listeners to further investigate Sharon Isbin's back catalogue and also the compositions of still underrated composers like Seiber, Niles and even Rodrigo, the latter remaining to many ears, though quite unfairly, a classical "one hit wonder". Investigation recommended.

Neil Horner

see also Artist Portrait - Sharon Isbin (Guitar) WARNER CLASSICS 2564-61591-2 [79:15]  [GS]

An excellent representation of Ms. Isbin's artistry. Definitely recommended.  ... see Full Review

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