By Julie Amacher, Classical MPR
During this global pandemic, Guitarist Sharon Isbin is enjoying her time alone, which is giving her time to complete some projects she's procrastinated about.
I was a bit surprised to hear her say she's a procrastinator given that she's recently created three albums in nine months! One of her most recents is titled Affinity.
"The centerpiece of that is a work that is a world premiere concerto by Chris Brubeck that I premiered in 2015 with the Maryland Symphony, who joins me with their magnificent conductor, Elizabeth Schulze on this album and the actual title of that concerto is, Affinity, which inspired the name of the album."
The title Affinity has a special significance; talk about that please.
"One of the things that Chris and I discussed was our mutual love of different styles and genres of music. And he was drawn to the title Affinity because he knew he knew of my interest in science. Being a former model rocket builder and launcher, and the definition of affinity, which he sent me, was an attraction or force between particles that causes them to combine. So that really sums up not only my scientific interests, but also the idea of bringing all these worlds together.
And it also became the perfect title for the album, since that combines music from China, from Africa, from Cuba, from Persia, from the Americas, and really finding a way to create something new and special."
There's also a tribute to the late Dave Brubeck. How did Chris manage to incorporate that and where we hear it in the piece?
"When Chris was writing this concerto for me, he did something no composer has ever done in my history of working with so many dozens of different, remarkably talented composers. And that was he said. Can I drop by? I've got some sketches I'd like you to hear.
He did that and he said, do you have any critiques? I gave him little pointers here and there about things that I thought he might be able to change. And there's a section in the middle that he played for me. And it was in a very much in a jazz style, but somehow it just didn't speak to me. And I said to him, you've lost your father, Dave Brubeck, in this last year and your mother. And I know how close you were to both of them. Is there anything you might want to consider in this piece in terms of a tribute to them. And he said, I am so glad you mentioned that I really was feeling that. But I was afraid that you only wanted my own music.
So no sooner had we had that discussion. But he sent me some samples to listen to of songs that his father had written. And there was one both the conductor Elizabeth Schulze and I gravitated to immediately. And that was the one called Autumn. And he said that he actually was thinking about that piece because as he was composing, he was looking out the window and seeing the leaves fall. It was autumn and remembering that particular song that he used to perform with his father."
Antonio Lauro's V W No. 3 is dedicated to his daughter. You have met his daughter. Tell me about that meeting?
"I was in Caracas, Venezuela, at one point and I happened to be at a party. And everybody was sort of passing a guitar around, and Antonio Lotto's daughter, Natalia, after whom this waltz is named, was there. Her father had already passed on. So I began to play the waltz dedicated to her, Natalia. And she picked up a Venezuelan folk instrument and started to strum along an accompaniment in the style of the the the folk guitar of Venezuela. And I've never forgotten the thrill of that.
I began to do duo concerts with a former student of mine, Colin Davin, He's now on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music. And in our duo concerts together, I asked him at one point, what would you think about doing an arrangement for two guitars of Natalia? Because he is really so talented on that level as well. So he did. And I just loved it and asked him to join me on this album."
Sharon Isbin, with an "Affinity" for music from all over the world, on her latest recording.
To hear the rest of the conversation, download the extended podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.