WORKS: Troubadours; From Afar…; American Landscapes
PERFORMER: Sharon Isbin (guitar); St Paul CO/Hugh Wolff
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55083 2 DDD
Sharon Isbin has commissioned and premiered more guitar concerti than any other guitarist. Indeed, she commissioned the three works on this world premiere recording in response to the challenge posed by the surprising fact (quoted in the booklet notes) that though ‘the guitar is the most commonly owned instrument in America today… it continues to battle for proper respectability on the classical concert stage’.
John Corigliano’s deliciously atmospheric Troubadours is a series of free variations in three parts, conjuring images from the 12th-century tradition of courtly love. In this piece, Isbin’s fluent virtuosity, sympathetically supported by the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, vividly evokes both the soft, eerie textures of the outer sections, and the brighter colours of the central section’s exuberant portrayal of a medieval fair. However, the most striking feature of all the works here is the astonishing transcription of the guitar’s qualities of ‘incisive articulation, unique sonorous tonal coloration and haunting melodic voice’ (in the words of Joseph Schwantner) for the orchestra’s broader instrumental palette. Witness Isbin’s and the St Paul’s sensuous delight in Schwantner’s From Afar…, or their contrast of gentle, pastoral moods and breath taking vitality in Lukas Foss’s American Landscapes, with its fragrant echoes of Copland and Ives. This superbly recorded programme will leave you wanting more. Nicholas Rast