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In performance: Sharon Isbin

Web-only review:

Miked Isbin makes herself heard, subtly
by Joe Banno

In the resolutely acoustic world of classical music performance, guitar recitals are the rare exceptions where subtle amplification has become a norm. Miking Sharon Isbin's guitar at the National Gallery of Art's West Garden Court on Sunday made a tremendous difference in audibility, letting this softest of instruments be heard in a room notorious for its sound-blurring resonance.
(read more after the jump)

Isbin's playing being of the highest order -- offering scrupulous dynamics, clean work on the fingerboard, evocative shifts in tone and bell-like harmonics -- it benefited from the extra scrutiny the electronic enhancement gave it. If there was the rare moment of less-than-stellar execution (the mechanics behind the fusillade of notes in Francisco Tárrega's "Recuerdos de la Alhambra [Memories of the Alhambra]" were perhaps a bit clunkier and more obvious than would be ideal, and fast runs here and there contained some imperfectly struck tones), Isbin's work was mostly exemplary. That was especially true in her buttery-smooth treatment of the rapid-fire triplets in Albeniz's "Asturias" and her elastic, romantically molded phrasing (so reminiscent of her teacher, Andrés Segovia) in Enrique Granados's Spanish Dance No. 5 and Antonio Lauro's Waltz No. 3.

It was good to hear Isbin in works written specifically for her, though Leo Brouwer's "The Black Decameron" was too discursive and evoked too much of a feel-good, New Age mood for its dramatic folk-African source material. And John Duarte's "Joan Baez Suite" - a couple of hauntingly lovely movements aside -- couldn't quite shake the tone of neo-Baroque noodling on pop songs you'd hear from a classical guitarist at a swanky brunch.

-- Joe Banno

By Anne Midgette  |  December 29, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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I would not argue against discreet amplification of classical guitar where that is necessary to audibility.

However, I remember hearing Isbin play unamplified in a concert hall within Juilliard; the intimacy of the communication was magical.

Posted by: ScottRose | December 29, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

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