New Classical Tracks - Classical Roots, Many Branches

by Julie Amacher
October 4, 2011

Listen New Classical Tracks: Guitar Passions
Larger view
Sharon Isbin - Guitar Passsions (album art)

Think back a few years, OK, maybe a lot of years. What music were you listening to in college? For Sharon Isbin it was Nancy Wilson and the rock band Heart. That's one reason she invited Wilson to join her on her latest recording, "Guitar Passions." The title really says it all. This is a recording that celebrates the guitar, and the passion she and her colleagues have for the instrument.

By bringing together musicians from different genres on this recording, Isbin has created a new voice for her instrument. There are some rather surprising guest artists on "Guitar Passion," including Steve Morse, the founder of the Dixie Dreggs and guitarist of the rock band Deep Purple since 1994. Sparks really fly when Morse teams up with Isbin and Brazilian guitarist Romero Lubambo on the world premiere of Laurindo Almeida's arrangement of the "Adagio" from Rodrigo's, "Concierto de Aranjuez." The first eight minutes of this piece are quite magical. Then it's off to Brazil with a samba rhythm and an electric jolt.

Another world premiere on this recording--that may find you hitting the repeat button a few times--is a two-guitar setting of a solo work by Argentine composer Quique Sinesi. The second part was written and performed by jazz guitarist Stanley Jordan. The composer often includes improvised instrumentals in his music, so adding Stanley Jordan's breezy style to this piece sounds perfectly natural.

Just like Sharon Isbin, I was singing along with the Wilson sisters and the rock band Heart while in college. And, she gives us that chance again by inviting Nancy Wilson to sing and play, "Dreamboat Annie" on this new release. They add a bossa nova instrumental at the end to coincide with the Latin theme of the recording.

For more traditional classical fare, move ahead to Albeniz's "Asturias." Here, Isbin pays tribute to the great Spanish guitarist, and her former teacher, Andres Segovia. This is his guitar transcription of Albeniz's piano piece. Segovia uses triplets and flamenco-inspired strums to spice up the outer sections while the lyrical middle section imitates the sensuous song of a Spanish singer.

Agustin Barrios was a prolific Paraguayan composer and guitarist of the early 20th century. Barrios was nicknamed, "the Paganini of the jungles of Paraguay," because of his virtuosic talent, and because he often performed wearing traditional Indian costumes to celebrate his Guarani heritage. Isbin closes out "Guitar Passions," with his piece titled, "La Catedral," or "The Cathedral." It's a work that was inspired when Barrios heard the music of Bach played in a cathedral. The first movement is contemplative, and prayerful, while the second movement is more celebratory, with impressive finger work.

"Guitar Passions" is an exciting example of what can happen when a group of amazing musicians from different genres join forces to blend their collective talents. This new release captures the versatility, the charm and the intimacy of this diverse instrument.