It is hard to imagine a more energentic ambassador for the classical guitar than Sharon Isbin. With more than 30 albums to her credit, Isbin has made waves in the music world not only by premiering important works for the instrument but by seeking out cross-genre collaborations with such musicians as Steve Vai, Thaigo de Mello, Joan Baez, and many others. Now as the COVID-19 pandemic paralyzes live music everywhere, Ms. Isbin has released two albums highlighting the possibilities of collaboration across national boundaries and genres. On August 4th she discussed the recordings and her career with Peter Haney of WORT’s Back Porch Serenade. In “Affinity,” Isbin revisits concert favorites and debuts new works written for her by noted contemporary composers from three continents. These include Chris Burbeck’s jazz-influenced concerto “Affinity,” the album’s title track, which Isbin performed in Madison with the Madison Sympohony Orchestra in 2017. In a second release titled “Strings for Peace,” Isbin makes her first foray into Indian classical music, playing compositions in the Hindustani tradition by the noted Sarod virtuoso Amjad Ali Khan, together with the composer and his sons, who are also masters of the instrument. This release follows a successful tour of India that Isbin undertook with Khan in 2019. Together, the two releases call for cooperation across boundaries of nation and faith at a time of increasing world tension and division. Although Sharon Isbin is not currently touring live, she did participate in the 2020 Colorado Music Festival, and the virtual concert, recorded in her living room, is still available for free viewing (registration required). Isbin hopes that these two new releases and her virtual performances will provide comfort to music lovers as everyone continues to struggle with restrictions on concerts due to the ongoing public health crisis.
Image credit: Suvo Das