It’s the 2016 A to Z Blog Challenge, so I thought I’d focus on one of my favourite subjects: Guitars. Care to join me?
Sharon Isbin is one of the most highly decorated guitarists of our time. A multiple Grammy award winner, and named Guitar Player magazine’s “Best Classical Guitarist” award, Sharon Isbin is internationally known and loved for her lyrical technique, versatility, and just flat out awesomeness.
She created the Guitar Department at Julliard and is the director of the Guitar Department at the Aspen Music Festival, where she still holds master classes on a regular basis. Don’t expect to see me in her studio anytime soon. Like flamenco, my hands just don’t move the way a classical guitarist’s does.
She has performed with more than 170 orchestras, at the White House, at Ground Zero, and is probably the only classical performer in recent years to perform at the Grammy Awards. The list of her collaborators is as diverse as it gets, from Josh Groban to Steve Vai, to Nancy Wilson to Joan Baez. The woman certainly gets around, musically speaking, which testifies to her versatility.
I first learned of Sharon Isbin driving home from work one afternoon. I was cycling through my preset radio stations when I heard classical guitar flowing out of my speakers. I don’t normally listen to classical music in the car, preferring to be able to relax and not have to concentrate on what other drivers might be doing, but this was classical guitar. Of course I was going to pause and listen.
Ms. Isbin was giving an interview on NPR, and the topic of discussion was Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez.” Without much preamble, they launched into the first movement, a raucous, exuberant display of guitar virtuosity and musical interplay. It left me completely breathless. A pause, during which the interviewer asked Ms. Isbin about the second movement. She had studied with Maestro Rodrigo shortly before his death, and had relayed the story of the origins of that second movement. Then they played it. I had to pull off the highway, tears rolling down my cheeks. It was that beautiful.
Since then, my appreciation for her ability has just expanded. She has been one of the most ardent ambassadors for classical guitar, having commissioned more classical works than any other artist. Enormously prolific in terms of her performance schedule, she is no slouch in the recording department either, with roughly 25 recordings to her credit.
With that much material to enjoy, trying to limit the list to only these was a challenge. Give them a listen and let me know what you think!