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
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.
see also Artist
Portrait - Sharon Isbin (Guitar)
WARNER CLASSICS 2564-61591-2 [79:15]
excellent representation of Ms.
Isbin's artistry. Definitely recommended.
... see Full