"Described by the Boston Globe's Michael Manning as a musician who plays "beyond virtuosity," guitarist Sharon Isbin has been a consistent challenge for critics, who struggle to find the right superlative that would do justice to her exquisite playing. "In her hands," wrote Anne Midgette in The New York Times, "the guitar takes on the precision of a diamond, each note a clear, shining facet that catches, prism-like, a glimpse of the spectrum." In essence, a performance by Isbin is like a painting by Vermeer: a formally impeccable and inexhaustible work of art."
The works on this collection are drawn from two of the very first stereo LPs released by the L’Oiseau-Lyre sub-label of Decca. ‘Music of Handel’ was a 1958 album containing arias (recently reissued by Eloquence 482 4759) and this instrumental suite from Rodrigo, one of the composer’s early pre-London Italian operas, performed in Florence in 1707.
The "Baroque Favorites for Guitar" title of this CD implies that it might be a greatest-hits compilation or a collection of tunes aimed at newcomers to classical music, and the presence of the not-really-Albinoni Adagio among the contents reinforces this impression. In fact, it is nothing of the sort. It is the product of a long study on Isbin's part (of course, this isn't the kind of detail the marketing department is looking for!), study that has resulted in quite distinctive music making. The album includes mostly transcribed concertos, with a few solo works.
"Artist portrait" is a beautifully arranged bouquet of Sharon Isbin’s “best”. In this album, she has combined in a single CD Baroque, Latin music, Folks songs, and modern concerti commissioned by the artist. Mrs. Isbin has created the guitar department at Julliard School of Music, she has commissioned more concerti then any other guitarist, has won a Grammy, has written the Classical Guitar Answer Book to mention just a few of her outstanding accomplishments.
Sharon Isbin is an excellent guitar-player, with enviable skills. She has fast fingers, articulates precisely and cleanly, ornaments phrases where needed and with the greatest ease, and knows exactly how she wants the music to sound. All the voices are discernible, yet they maintain the proper hierarchy within these very complicated textures. This is certainly a recording that deserves a permanent slot in the collection of anyone interested in guitar repertoire.
Ambroisie presents a new edition of one of Handel's Italian period masterpieces, Rodrigo, with an exceptional cast led by Maria Riccarda Wesserling in the title role, María Bayo as his wife Esilena, Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as his young lover Florinda and Max Emanuel Cencic as Fernando. Following Amadigi di Gaula earlier this year, Rodrigo is the second Handel opera on the label conducted by Eduardo López Banzo. The release follows a European tour with the same cast and orchestra, Al Ayre Español, resulting in an interpretation that will undoubtedly lead to a new understanding of the piece almost exactly 300 years after it was written. "There can hardly be another Handel opera so fraught with unanswered questions, conjectures and legends as Rodrigo," writes Rainer Heyink in his fascinating article in the booklet on the work's background and reconstruction. 'Vincer se stesso è la maggior vittoria, o Rodrigo' (To conquer oneself is the greatest victory, or Rodrigo), to give its full title, is one of Handel's earliest operas, the first he wrote when he arrived in Italy in his early twenties. Until recently, despite the magnificence of the music, it has been little heard, partly because much of the autograph score remained in fragmentary form and the extensive revisions Handel evidently made prior to its premiere in Florence in 1707 were lost. Over the past 25 years, much has been rediscovered or re-created by various musicologists. For this recording, still missing sections were replaced as far as possible by musical material from other works by Handel, an edition reconstructed and published under the auspices of the Hallische Händel-Ausgabe. The typical opera seria plot revolves loosely around the political and marital conflicts and complications in the life of a real 8th-century Spanish king, most caused, of course, by his infidelity. His wife's constancy, forgiveness and wisdom prove the salvation of everyone.