• Jonathan Widran

SHARON ISBIN, Affinity

When it comes to awards and critical accolades, the fountain never stops for those praising the brilliance and diversity of classical guitarist Sharon Isbin. Hailed by Boston Magazine as “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time” and by the Atlanta Journal as “the Monet of the classical guitar…a master colorist,” the multiple Grammy winner has been chosen Guitar Player magazine’s Best Classical Guitarist award and was named the 2020 Musical America Worldwide Instrumentalist of the year – the first guitarist to receive the honor in the organization’s 59 year history.

Isbin’s staggering three decades plus of multi-faceted recording culminates in the perfectly titled Zoho release Affinity, a sweeping collection which finds the guitarist showcasing alternately gentle and reflective and wildly rhythmic and soaring new inspirational works by an array of celebrated international composers – including Chris Brubeck, Leo Brouwer (Cuba), Antonio Lauro (Venezuela), Tan Dun (China) and Richard Danielpour.


First performed in April 2015 with the Maryland Symphony, the multi-faceted Brubeck penned opener “Affinity: Concerto for Guitar & Orchestra” incorporates the inspiration of a song penned by Chris’ father Dave Brubeck (“Autumn in Our Town”) and later transitions buoyantly into high energy samba territory with unusual time signatures. Among other highlights are Brouwer’s three part suite “El Decameron Negro,” a prime feature for Isbin’s meditative solo guitar; and Danielpour’s “Of Love and Longing,” an exquisite three-piece operatic suite that pairs Isbin and Grammy winning soprano Isabel Leonard, who venture through various tempo changes and emotional landscapes. Gaining insight on each piece via the extensive liner notes (several by the composers themselves) is an integral part of a most impressive musical journey.

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