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June 16, 2009

http://www.audaud.com/article.php?ArticleID=5973

Sharon Isbin, guitar - Journey to the New World - (with Joan Baez and
Mark O’Connor) Sony Classical
The sounds of both instruments are beautifully captured on the recording, and the
cardboard jewel-box alternative packaging is well-designed.

Sharon Isbin, guitar - Journey to the New World - (with Joan Baez and
Mark O’Connor) Sony Classical 88697-45456-2 *****:

Sharon Isbin is one of today’s pre-eminent guitarists. She was the first classical guitarist
to receive a Grammy in 28 years (for her Dreams of a World). She asked contemporary
English composer John Duarte to write a piece for solo guitar honoring folksinger Joan
Baez. When Joan heard Isbin performing the work, she volunteered to sing on her next
recording, which this is. Baez is heard on two folksongs before and following the word
premiere recording of Duarte’s Joan Baez Suite: the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger" and
Go ‘Way from my Window" by John Jacob Niles. Her voice is not what it once was, but
these tracks nicely bookend the guitar suite.

The Mark O’Connor-composed and performed suite, Strings & Threads, traces the
journey of his Irish ancestors across the country to the West using various folk songs. He
mentions how he tried to show how folk music styles hundreds of years apart are
interconnected. When Sharon Isbin heard O’Connor playing his suite for solo guitar she
asked him if he would re-do it as a duo for guitar and fiddle, and this is the result. The
Texas Dancehall Blues and Swing near the end of the suite really...well...swing.

The sounds of both instruments are beautifully captured on the recording, and the
cardboard jewel-box alternative packaging is well-designed and filled with interest notes
and photos of the glamourous Isbin. I can imagine this CD has very wide appeal, and not
just among classical collectors.

TrackList: Four Renaissance Lute Works, Two English Folksongs, YORK: Andecy,
ANON.: Wayfaring Stranger, DUARTE: Joan Baez Suite, NILTES: Go ‘Way from my
Window, MARK O’CONNOR: Strings & Threads Suite
ECUERDOS
DEL'ALHAMBRA
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En s'affranchissantdes frontidresdu repertoire classique,SharonIsbin est devenueune vdritablestat de la guitare.Mais son
golt pour |esmusiques "populaires"ne lui fait pasoublier la rigueur de I'approcheclassique.Un herituge qu'elle transmet
auxjeunes guitaristesdu monde entier e h Julliard School,prestigieuseinstitutionamericaineau seinde laquelleelle a crd1
la classede guitare en 1989.Bret cette guitaristede charmeabordeIa musiqueavecune insatiablecuriositd.Moteur !

Carnmenpnrpar eotre nouoeau CD Jolottreyto the New Wodd, Les guitaittes sont lelrlus soui)mt hab;tuis Ajouer et d traoa;ller seuls.
gui eousreun large do,tentailde style. Cohttuenta1)ez-1)ous
effectud Comment sbstPatsle Ia ollabontiox aoec eesdeus artistes ?
Ia sdleetiondespiies ? Joan est venue chez moi iLNew York pour la premidre rdp€tition.
J'ai biti mon programmeautour d'une id€e simple : retracerl'€volu- Avant que nous commencions,elle m'a denandd dejouerpour elle.
tion de la musique populaire am€ricaine depuis ses origines, au Elle s'est assisei environ un mdtre de moi et, tandis quejejouais,
X\4e sidcle,sur les iles britanniquesjusqu'aux musiquespopulaires j'ai lt des larmes couler le long de sesjoues. Qa a 6t€ un moment
du )fie sidcle.Le CD s'ouwe sur des duos €crits d l'origine pour waiment intense,comme une communion totale de nos ames.Cette
luth Renaissanceque j'interprdte seule en rerecorditg: Dreurie\ plemidre rencontre 6tait un peu le pr6lude id6al de notre travail d
attordes(unryrne), Lmd Itilloaghby'sWhane Hone @avlend} Rassignol venir Je dois dire que gaa 6t6 un grand plaisir de travailleravecJoan,
(arLotyme)et Greensleazer (Johnson).Ce sont desmorceauxquej'ai tant sur le plan humain que sur le plan artistique.Il y a une chimie
d6couvertsily a six ans en lesjouant avecl'un de mes 6tudiants de spdcialeentre nous. C'est fondamental pour un duo. Elle f€te cette
la Juiliard School.J'6tais certaine de les enregistrerun jour, mais il anndeses50 ans de carridreaveci la cl€ pas mal de concertsautour
fallait que je les integre dans un programme. Sur les paties r€p€t6es, dnmonde.Jaume! ta theNeu World estrnhommage suppldmentaire
je varie les couleurs,l'attaque, 1esornements pour explorer difftrentes iLson immense talent,
ambiances.Le programme se poursuit avecde trds beaux arrange-
ments du compositeur anglaisEdward Flower srt DrunAen Sailor, Et MarA OConnor...
chanson irlandaise du XVIIe sidcle,et l ild Mauntain Thyme qti Nous partageons€galementune grande complicit€ musicale.Il faut
6voque ufle chanson €cossaisedu XVIIIe sidcle.Nous ttaversons savoir que Mark n'est pas seulement un violoniste virtuose mais
ensuiteI'oc6anavecAndrew York (membre du Los Angeles Guitar aussiun redoutable guitariste de flatpicking fa u au mddiator en ligne
Qrartet et compositeur prolifique) et sa trdsbelle pid.ceAndeq4 qui mdlodiquesauventsur destem?osbAsenleeds,ndt), ce qui explique son
Iui a €tdinspir6epar la musiquefolk qu'avaientI'habitudedejouer son 6criture parfaite pour la guitare, i la fois sophistiqu6e et colorde.
pdre et son oncle. Sa Suite r€sume i elle seuleparfaitement le programme du disque,
puisqu'elleretracele lien entre les musiquesceltiqueseurop€ennes
YosduosavecIa ebanteuse Joan Baez, igerie dufolh song,et le violoniste et la musique amdricaine.La famille de Mark a quitt6 l'Irlande lots
Mark O'Connor sont lesmomentsforts du d;sque.Pouvez-,uousnausen de la grande famine. Aprds s'6tre €tablie i I'Est, el1ea €migr€ vers
dire plut sar cesrencontres?
John Duarte a 6crit laJoan Baez Suite po,tr guitare solo en 2002 i
mon attention. Cette suite inclut plusieurs chansons c6ldbresde
ttl.o-s de nolre prerniAr:e
Joan Baez qui,lorsqu'elle l'a entendue, m'a propos6 d'enregistrer
des chansons guitare-voix sur le disque. J'ai silectiotn€ l ayfaring
Stranger et Gauay from my toindoz.tqui se prdtait bien au duo
rencorrhe, Joan Baez sresl
avecJoan. Qrant au violoniste Mark O'Connor, c'est une star ici asstse a enYrfon
aux USA dans 1estyle que nous appelons "country {iddle". Sa virtuo-
sit6 est vraiment impressionnante. Lorsque j'ai entendu sa suite
de rnoi er, larrdis que je
StringsU Threadspour violon solo,je lui ai demand€s'il pouvait en jouais, jrai vu des larrnes
faire une version pour duo guitare-violon. Et voi1i, nous 1'avons
(ouler le longr de ses joues.tt
enrcgistr6eI
l'Ouest au d€but du )O(e siecle. me produire sur scdneavecdt:-!
Les treize mouvementsde la Suite guitaristesqui venaientdujazz ::
reprdsententdiff6rents stylesde du jazzlrock : Laurindo Almei;-i
la musiquepopulaireamdricaine et Larry Coryell. On faisait u:.-:
et montrent son evolution de sorte de "crossover",ce qui. i
manidre cfuonologiciue. Ainsi, on I'dpoque,6tait considdr6comrr<
passede la gigue irlandaise d la un gros mot I
valse, au blues, au ragtime, au
swmg... Ne therchi*-,oouspasalorcd toulxr
un public plas large que rehi de la
Reoenonsi la loan Baex Suite" guitare classigue?
et totre callaboratiox attecJobn Qa m'a certainementpermis d'y
Duarte. Quelle estllmportanee de arriver mdme si ce n'dtait pasma
cettereneanh.eda t ,uotrecarriirc ? motivation. Je cherchaissimple-
Au fil desanset de nos rencontres, ment ijouer la musique qui me
j'ai pu nouer une relation particu- plaisait avec des musiciens que
1i€reaveccette grande figure de la j'admirais.Mes parentsdonnaient
guitare, h€las disparue en 2004. des cours de dansesfolkloriques
l'al er|fegrsttt sa suiteAppalachian et organisaientr6gu1i€rementdes
Dreams E. 12 1 en2001 sv le CD f€tes qui 6taient de merveilleu-x
Dreamsof a World,d\sqte qi m'a moments d'observation pour
permis de devenir la premidre la petite fille que j'6tais alors.
guitariste classique )Lrecevoir un J'entendais etje voyais tous ces
Grammy Award. Dans son €cri-
ttArr d6but des ann6es 8(), stvl€stels qu'lls devaient ctr€ jou6s
tu.re,JohnDuarte est toujouJstrds dansla "vraievie" pour permettre
jrai cornrnenc6 h rrawailler auxgensde danseret de s'amuser.
cr€atif. Dans la Joan Baez Suite
en particulier,il utilise toutesles ef A rne lqroduire sur scArre Pour l'anecdote,N4imi,la tantede
possibilit6s de la guitare pour Joan Baez,venait r6guliirement
illustrer le thdme abord€ dans la
ave( deur guilarisles qui danser chez mes parents.Je I'ai
chanson et provoquer 1'apparition verraienl du jazz et du renconE€elonque j'avais cinq ans,
d'images dans l'esprit de l'audi- bien avantquej'efltendeparlerde
jazz/r.ock: Laurindo
teur, ce qui est trds stimulant pour Joan !
l'interpr€te.Il y a par exemple,les Alrneida el Larry Co.yell.
harmoniques dans Barbara Allen Cette euiasiti musicalefait gu'an
On faisail une sor.le de a du mal drqrousealleru edt;quette
pour simuler les clocheslors de
tt(rossoterrr. ce qui. A \tylistique'...
fun€railles, une ligne chroma-
Mais c'estparcequej'aime sincd-
tique ascendantepour rcpr6senter
lt6pocque, 6lail (orrsid6r.6
un enfant qui grandit dans The rement tous lesstylesquejejoue,
Treestheltdo Grou High... C'est corrrrne urr grf(Ds rnol lll m€me si j'ai un penchantparticu-
toujours une grande chance de lier pour Ie r6pertoire espagnol.
pouvoir travailler et 6changeravecun compositeur Eo tant qu'in- Ce qu'il y a de stimulant dans les styles"non-classiques",c'est que
terprdte, nous devons stimuler les cr6ateurs pour dlargir le r6Pertoite !a nous contraint i trouver des doigt6s inhabituels, de travailler le
de la guitareclassique,c'estpourquoij'ai demard6,parfoisavecinsis- rlthme en cherchanti "groover",comme le font lesmusiciensPoP . .
tance,desceuwesd descompositeutscommeJohn Corigliano, Lukas
Foss,JosephSchwantner,Christopher Rouse... aoez crdd14dassedeguitare au sei';'Ie
Pour ret,enir au classique.Ilous
IalrestigieuseJulliard School.Sur quelspoints insistez-t'otts.i:;-:zt
I/ousaimez crier deslipns e ! rc difcrc nts stlles de musique,rcmmesi
oous 'uouliezsortir la guitare de son cadrestrictement classiqueou Je considdrequ'i1estimportant d'apprendreatx 6tudi,r:::'
contem?orain.Paurquai ? un bon legato et aveclyrisme, de chercherune bor: :-
Tout simplement,parcequej'adore€coutertoutessort€sde musiques. et une grande diversitdde couleurs,de projeter ' " '
Il me semble naturel de d6couwi des styles diffdrents et, €ventuelle- a r e cu n el a r g e p a l e n e d y r a m i q u e . d e c o m p r e ' :- =.1_
' . - :. ar :<: le
ment, de crderdesliens avecla guitare classiquem6me si la relation wes et comment elle conditionne l'interrr-'
peut d'abord sembler tres lointaine. C€tte curiositd s'estvraiment sensqnhmiqueet erfn de s'ccoute'.'. -:--: :: ' I ,-,.ces
d6velopp6eau dibut des anndes80,lorsque 1eCarnegie Hall m'a points peuventrepr6senterun viritabi: ;::iicnge r-
quel que soit leur niveaud'ailleur.. Prenonsles <r:.
- ' Bach,
demand6de cr6erla "Semainede la Guitare".J'aiconsid€r€alorsqu'il
6tait impensablede se cantonner i la seuleguitare classique-etj'ai par exemple.J'indique armes €lites comment coi: : reilleur
doigt6 pour le contrepoint,comment amenel et re:. -::cmenta-
choisi de programmer des concerts dans tous les styles : classique,fo119
':
jazz, bluegrass,rock... afin de montrer l'exceptionnellerichessede tion et quelphasd choisirseionleqpe de pidcesJe-. +"lement
notre instrument. Au m€me moment, j'ai comnenc6 i travailleret i i dcouterles grandesinterPrdtations,notammen: { l pianiste
Rosalyn Tureck aveclaquellej'ai eu la chance de travailler Je leur poru moi lors de la creation d\ ConcertoTraubadours,tcrit d mon
conseille de travailler nos dditions des Szriespour Luth (G. Schitmer) aft€ntionparJohnCoigliano. Dans cetteceuwe,jecommenceijouer
etd'€coutermon disqueB^ch: Cotn?lete
L te Jzler, paru chezVirgin en coulisses,puis j'affive sur sc€neen marchant tout en continuant
en 1995. ijouerJ'ai trouvi la solution ffes discreteet surtout trdsperformante,
c e q u i f a i t q u ej e l ' u t i l i s eq u a s i m e npt o u r t o u cm e . c o n c e r t "i.c i
l/atreparte vous?ermet de rcfituntrer desitudiants du mondeentien aux USA.
Quel re&ard?ortez-x,aus sur lesnouqellet gAnArutiafisdeguita stes?
Les 6tudiants d'aujourd'hui soot vraiment €tonnants ! D''ailleurs i Rettezaous f di Ieaunguitarcsfa briq ades? ar Ielut hi.eramericain Th omas
ce sujet,j'aiune anecdoter6v6latricede notre dpoqueetdes nouvear.Lir Humphrey (tragiquement ddcddddun arrit nrdiague en aoril2008,
moyenstechniquesqui sont i notre disposition.Toutr6cemment,l'un d lkgz de 59 ans) ?
desmes dldvestravaillaitle Nocturnal deBritten, et lors de I'audition I'ai enteglstrd Joarnel ta the Nelt Warld avec ma guitare Humphrey
ill'a interpr€t6 de manidre magistrale.J'avaism6me du mal i croire de 2007, avec tabie en cddre. Le son est trds beau, trds lyrique,
qu'il ait pu progresserde manidre aussispectaculairedans un iaps chaleureux,avecde la rondeur et une belle r6sonance.C'est i'un des
de temps aussicourt, alorsje lui ai demand€comment il avait fait. derniers moddles qu'i1a fabriquds et 1'un d€s trois seuls avecune
Il m'a rdpondu qu'il s'6tait enregistr6une quinzaine de fois le jour peinture sur le dos repr€sentantdeu-xchamantes Gmmes. Aujourd'hui,
avant I'audition et qu'i chaque€coute,il regardaitmes annotations je joue sur une superbeguitare fabriqu€e par le luthier irlandais Michael
sur la partition. En dcoutant, il se rendait compte que ce qui lui O'Leary ft nepas con;fondrearec lefondatear de la rcmpagnieairienne
semblaitbon lorsqu'ilj ouait ne 1'6taitenfait pasdu tout. En intdgrant Ryanair gui porte le nime nom, ndr). Cet instrument possedeune
petit i petit toutes les corrections et suggestionsque j'avais pu lui Iargepalettedynamiqueet une grandevai6td de timbres.C'estr,rai-
faire,ilest parvenui un r6sultatwaiment convaiflcant,aubout de la... ment une guitare extraordinaire.
quinzidme pdse I I1 avait f impression d'avoir mes oreilles aveclui dans
lapidce,cequi lui permettait de comprendreseserreu$ et dravoirune trlotrejm estA lafois dlro traetd etPrdcir. Daks quelle directian doiztent
."." ^1.,"" I" ; .. .t . I '- ,. ,,,. trat;ailler lesdlittet pour arriver d une telle maitr;se ?
Merci pour vos compliments. Il faut simplement de 1adiscipline -
Imaginons gue aous soyezune didtdticienne de la guitare. Quel serait dans I'approche musicale et le travail technique pour trouv€r la
votre?ragramme iddal guotidien pour garder laforme ? libert€ d'interpr6tation i I'int6rieur de la structuredesGuvres.
A mon avis,il est primordial de pratiquer quotidiennementles
arpCges,lesgammeset 1esli6s de la maingauche.Poules arpiges,on Comment taillez-vaus oasongles?
peut ttavailler l'Etude z? de Villa-Lobos avecle doigt6 normal de Je m'applique i suivre1etour du bout de mes doigts en arrondissant
la main droite, puis seulementavec"i" et "m", "i" et "a" et enfin, "m" soigneusementles cdt€s et en €vitant toute aspdrit€.J'approchele
et "a". Pour les gammes,je suisadeptedu programme Sigovia. tmvail du son comme unpeintre qui regardeson nuancierdecouleurs
faced satoile. Pour obtenir une grandevari6tdde timbres,je modifie
Vausjouezun peapartout dansle monde.Quel estle rccretpour rester non seulementlaposition delamain droite entrele chevaletet le bout
au to? malgrd lesddcalagerhoraires,Iafatigue destayages... ? delatouche,mais6galementl'angledu doigt pour avol plus ou moins
Qa fait partie du m€tier !Je m'exercementalement,sansla guitare. d'ongle ou de pulpe.
C'est un aspect que j'explique en ddtail dans mon livre C/asslral
Guitar Ansuer Bool (EditionsAcousticGuitar Ga;des, niquenenten Paul'terminer, aurons-nous Ia chancede vous entendreen Frcne ddns
anglais,ndr).1'essaiede maintenir 6galementma forne physiqueen unfuturproche
?
couJan! en faisant de 1armdonn6e J'adorejor.reren France.J'y 6tais
et depuispeu de temps en prati- tout r€cemment d I'occasiondes
quant les cours de danse latine, MIDEM ClassicalAwards, eo
ce qui est trds plaisant. janvrer 2009. En f6vrier 2005,
je me suisproduite pendant une
Yousutilisez une amqlif&t;on semaineau Thditre du Chitelet
IdgAreavet un slstime sansftl de- i Paris,oirj'ai donn€ trois concerts,
?uis quelguesafikies ,ka;ntenant. I'un avecorchesffe,l'autre en mu-
En quoi celaa changioatreaq?ro.he siquede chambre,etle troisidme
avecle guitariste Steve Vai qui
Tout d'abord,je vetx pr6ciserque avait 6cdt spdcialementun duo
l'amplificationapporter6ellement pour nous.J'aieu lachanced'ap-
un confort suppl6mentaire au prendre le frangaisi neufaos lors-
musicienet i I'auditeur.Bien sirr, que mes parentssesont install6s
il faut que ce soit bien fait et que en Italie. J'6tais scolaris€edans
9a respectele timbre de la gui- un 6tablissementfrangais, c'est
tare acoustique,la magie de sa pourquoi jouer dans votre pays
sonorit6.Une fois qu'on a essay6 me donneI'impressionde rentrcr
un€ solution performante,on ne i la maison !Je reviendrai donc
peut plus s'enpasserLe systdme avecbeaucoupde plaisir ddsque
sansfil a €td congu spdcialement I'occasions'eop16sentera.
Disco Sha*on Isbin Par Mar< Rouv6

la guitared l'6gede neuf ansalorsqu'ellevit en ltalieavecses parents-


Nded Minneapolisen | 956,SharonIsbin decouvre
pianistesp'ciatistede Bach, RosalynTureck Dipl6m6e
EIleltudie avecAldo Mine a, Andr6sSegovia,oscarGhiglia,Alirio Diaz et la
etteremporteptusieursconcours
de YaletJniversity, prestigieux: TorontoGuitarcompetition,Concoursde MadridReineSofiaet
lui ont
Ie Concours de Munich.E e cr6eta classede guitareau seinde taJuttiardSchoolen 1989.De nombreuxcompositeurs
Ellea rempor6un Grammy
d6di6 deseuvres: Johncorigliano,TanDun,Howardshore,John.Duarte,LeoBrouwer,SteveVai..
Awarden2001pourso, dlsgueDreams of a World.

Discogyaphie
de stllet
Eharon Isbin a enregi:trd plus de 25 diques cout"rant an latge loextail
de la musique baroque au c'rossaver(jazz,fusian). En vo;ci une sdlectian

. Bnzit, with Love (Concord) en duo avec Carlos Barbosa-Lima


Ce disquereEroupe tesstandads inconbunables de la nusique bdsilienne
(Antonio Carloslobin, Pixinguinha, ErnestoNazarcth).
. Rhapsody in BIue, Wesl Side Storr, (Concord), toujourc avec Catlos Batbosa-Lima
Un pt rarnl/,c|.e' andricain(onrtru autou de<e\tdits de cet dcu\ euwP' naieures
de Leonatd Bemsteinet Ceorge Cershwin.
. Road to the Sun (EMI, Mrgin classics)
Un progranne plus "classique' avec des pieces in'ontoutnables
(La Catedtal,Capticho Arabe, Asturias, El Decameron Negro )'
. Love Songs & Lullabies (EMI, Mrgin Classics)
Thonas Allen
Un disquede duosguitare-voix (et percussionssur cenaines pidces)avec le baryton
classiques
et la sopnno BenitaValente. Le rcpettoie n:,eb chansonspopulaies et @uvres
. Rodrigo I Conciefto deAtaryuez (EMl,Virgin Classics)
sharcnlsbinaeulachancederencontrcrJoaq,inRodrigolo6qu'el|eagaSn6leconcoursReinesofia.Elles,estli6
d'aniti6avecleconpositeuresPalnolequietlerendaitvisitere7uli'rementFisureaussisuledisque'laFantasia
est dirigq avec brio par
paraun gentithonbrcet le Concertoen Rd devivaldi. L'orchestrede Chanbre cleLausanne

. Nightshade Rounds (EMI, Virgin Classics)


de Briften' Ies Pr6ludes I
lJn prcgramne .:es anglo'saxon, volantaiement ancr' dans]e XXe sidcleavec le Nocturnal
de Waltor"
d 2 de Cersh||in.b, ri)e EaBdtPllP,
. A,Il,e can Landscapes (EMl/Angel Classics)
Prcnie|enrcEistenentfiondja|detoisconcertos,critspo|ilaguitaste:,'frcubadou|''de]ohnCari+liana,''FronAfal'
de LukasFossLe Saint P.ul Chanber Orchesta estdhi4Apat Hugh wolff'
de Josephschwantnet,"Anerican Landscapes"
auteSuites(EMl,ViiSinClassics)
. l.S. Bach: Comptete
Lesquatre suhespour Luth (995, 996, 997 et | 006)
dans une prisede son qui ne sett Paswaiment I'interyfttation de Ia Suitariste
. louney to the Amazon (Teldec Classics)
(Percussiod'
lJn v'titable voyage avec P,ut Winter (saxophonesoprano) et Caudenciofhiago de Mello
autourd'euvrcs d'Am'ique du Sud (pincipalenent Brcsil), en duo, solo et trio'
. Dreams of a World lleldec Classics)
Avecce tou du monde rlJnissant deseuwes d'inspintion populaies nais d'4ctitute "savante"'
fois' un Oanmy Award
Sharon hbin a pernis e la guitare classiquede renponer, pour ta prenierc
(Ieldec classics)
. Christopher Rouse: conceft de Gaudi - TanDun : conceftofor Cuitar & orcheslra (Yi2)
Cesdeux Concertosdedi's e Sharonlsbin, enrcsistt4s ici en prcniire nondiale'
fui ont permis de recevoit sonsecond Crammy Awatd'
. Sharon tshin Plays Barcque Favo tes fot Cuitar (Warner Classics)
(AdaTio d'Albinoni ou de Bach)
Lln ptisede son flatteuse mais unearytoche trop "easy listening'
pou cet albun destind avant tout au gand public et enrcSist6 en conpagnie du Zurich Chanber Orchestra'
. Rodrigo : concieflo de Annjuez' Villa'Lobos t concetto for Guitar - Ponce : Concierto del sur

ltois conce(losincontou.nablPs dtt \\esie.l" eme,i\trc er' bonnecompaqnie


(Newyotk Philharnonic diri86 par )os6 Serebriel Belle prise de son
Leslnfiltras'
. Bandeoriginaledu film de Martinscorsese,
Sharon lsbina particip' ; |enrc7istrcnent de ]a bande son siSndeHoward Shorc'
June 4, 2009

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104967667

Guitarist Sharon Isbin's American 'Journey'


Listen Now
[8 min 19 sec] add to playlist | download

Henry Fair
Sharon Isbin calls Joan Baez her favorite folk musician. The two play together on Journey to the New World.

All Things Considered, - Sharon Isbin, the renowned classical guitarist, recently sat down
with NPR's Robert Siegel to play songs and talk about her new album, Journey to the New
World, which features new work written by John Duarte and Mark O'Connor.
Journey to the New World is really a journey across time. It starts with Renaissance lute
pieces and ends on the verge of bluegrass. One of the album's first pieces comes from the
16th century British Isles. It was written by John Dowland, a man Isbin calls "the pop-
music composer of [his] time."
But Isbin plays contemporary music, too, including a piece written for her by the composer
John Duarte, who also wrote "Appalachian Dream Suite." She says she loved that piece
so much, she asked him to write something new that draws on familiar songs. Duarte's
"Joan Baez Suite" is the new work.
"She was really my first musical hero," Isbin says of Baez. "And certainly my favorite folk
musician." She says the suite transforms folk songs with origins in the Old World, taking
themes from "The House of the Rising Sun" and "The Lily of the West."
An Emotional Bond
Baez sings on Isbin's album, too, on "Wayfaring Stranger." Isbin says the first time they
rehearsed, at her home in New York, the results were memorable.
"I began to play, and I opened my eyes at one point and noticed she had tears streaming
down her face," Isbin says. "Here's the woman whose music has made me cry for so
many years, and we're having this extraordinary sharing of souls."
Journey to the New World features a second world-premiere recording, called "Strings &
Threads Suite," written by composer and violinist Mark O'Connor. Isbin says the work
"really traces the evolution of folk music on the violin in America." In several movements, it
includes everything from jigs to blues and swing to bebop, leading up to the advent of
bluegrass.
Despite Isbin's considerable skill, the piece wasn't so easy for her to play.
"About a month before our premiere, I started to take the score out and ... no matter how
hard I practiced, some of this stuff just wasn't happening," she says. "There were a lot of
places that just weren't playable."
The two musicians sat down and went over the whole score to make it idiomatic for the
guitar — because, as it turned out, O'Connor had never tried to play the piece on Isbin's
instrument.
Isbin's says her running joke was, "Mark, if you can play it, then I'll play it."
INTERVIEW WITH SHARON ISBIN FOR GENDAI GUITAR MAGAZINE (Japan), June 2009 Issue

Could you tell us about the concept of Journey to the New World, the first CD with Sony label?
The music explores the evolution of American folk music through several hundred years beginning in the British
Isles with 16th and 17th century Renaissance lute duets in which I perform both parts: Drewrie’s accordes
(Anonymous), Lord Willoughby’s Welcome Home (Dowland), Rossignol (Anonymous) and Greensleeves (Johnson.)
I vary the colors and embellishment in repeats to explore different characters, moods and textures.

I follow with English composer Edward Flower’s brilliant arrangements of Drunken Sailor with its 17th century
Irish origins, and Wild Mountain Thyme which evokes an 18th century Scottish song. The journey then crosses the
ocean to America where the transformation of these roots takes on a new and distinct vernacular.

John Duarte wrote his Joan Baez Suite for solo guitar for me in 2002, and it includes many songs that Baez
performed in her early career. After hearing my performance of the music, she offered to sing on my recording. I
selected Wayfaring Stranger and Go ‘Way from my Window to perform with her. She was a joy to work with, her
voice is magnificent, and artistically we share a very special chemistry together. This album is in homage to her.

The journey concludes with Mark O’Connor, the finest folk violinist in America in a style we call country fiddle.
He is truly amazing! When I heard his Strings & Threads Suite for solo violin, I suggested he arrange it for the two
of us to perform. We premiered it in concert November 2007 and recorded it the following month.

You can hear samples of the music, watch a video of my performance with Mark, and see photos of me with Joan
Baez on my website: http://www.sharonisbin.com

I understand that Joan Baez is your music hero. When and by which song Joan attracted you? Do you have any
special memory about her?
“Sweet Sir Galahad” was one of my early favorites, then later “Diamonds and Rust,” but I love so many of her
songs it’s hard to single out a few. She was the only person in my life I ever wrote a fan letter to, back when I was
just out of college. Her music has always moved me to tears. When we had our first rehearsal in my home in New
York, she asked me first to play for her and placed a chair about a meter in front of mine. As I began to play, she had
tears streaming down her face. It was a very powerful, intimate and poignant experience to have shared with her, a
total unity of souls.

Could you tell us about Joan’s recent music activities?


Joan has been touring the world this last year to promote her latest recording, Day After Tomorrow, and to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of her career.

Are there any episodes about her in making recording of the CD?
When I took a taxi from the airport to Joan’s home, the driver got completely lost and I arrived 1.5 hours late. He
wasn’t too bright… But we finally found her house and it all worked out. We rehearsed with her 94-yr old mother in
attendance, ate persimmon fruit from her garden, and had a beautiful next day driving across the Golden Gate
Bridge to the California countryside where the Skywalker Sound Studio is located. On the way to our recording, she
was learning a song called “The Rose of Sharon” and humming it in the car. We spent ten wonderful hours together
that day.

Could you describe in detail how John Duarte composed Joan Baez Suite?
After the success of Duarte’s Appalachian Dreams suite, I asked him to write another work for me, this time
honoring Joan Baez whose artistry I’ve long admired. Baez loved the idea and gave it her full support. John and I
each came up with a list of songs, and from these he created the seven-movement suite. Included are some
especially famous ones like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “House of the Rising Sun,” “Barbara Allen,”
and “Lily of the West.” His approach was very beautiful and creative, using harmonics to suggest funeral bells in
“Barbara Allen,” parallel fifths in the bass of “Unquiet Grave” to suggest a pacing ghost, a rising chromatic line in
“The Trees they do Grow High” to create the image of a young boy growing up, a bass drone in the second
variation of “Silkie” to give the feeling of Scottish bagpipes, the bugle call of “Taps” played in American military
funerals at the end of “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” to evoke fallen soldiers, and so on. I had the opportunity
to play the suite for him, ask questions, select tempi and coach with him at his home in London just a couple of
months before he died. Knowing the end was near, we listened with tears in our eyes to one of his favorite pieces of
music, Henry Purcell’s “Lament” from Dido and Aenaes which he added halfway through “Unquiet Grave.”

I understand Mark O’Connor wrote Strings & Threads Suite based on folksongs of 13 American roots. Could you
tell us about what are 13 roots?
Mark’s family emigrated from Ireland to the United States during the famous potato famine, settling in the thirteen
original colonies before migrating to the West in the early 1900’s. Each movement in Strings & Threads represents a
different folk style and appears in a chronological form that reflects the evolution of American folk music and his
family’s journey including reels, waltzes, jigs, blues, spirituals, ragtime, swing and bebop.

Did you get any musical influences from your parents?


My parents taught folk dancing and as a child, and I would listen to the recordings they enjoyed and watch them
dance with their club members in our home, including Joan Baez’s aunt Mimi Kingsley who I met when I was
about five years old! My mother loved classical music, and encouraged us all to study an instrument. I began
classical guitar at age nine when we lived in Italy. When I was in college, it was my mother who suggested I study
Baroque music with the great Bach scholar and keyboard artist, Rosalyn Tureck.

Could you tell us about Andecy by Andrew York, which is recorded in your new CD?
Andecy is a hauntingly beautiful work inspired by the many early American, English and Irish folk tunes Andrew
heard his father and uncle perform. I chose colors and dynamics in the repeats that would add special character and
feeling to the music.

I understand this year is the 20th anniversary of creation of classical guitar department at Juilliard School. How long
have you been the director of the guitar department?
I was asked to created the guitar department in 1989, and have been its director and sole faculty. A year ago, we
added an undergraduate degree so now Juilliard offers both Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees in
guitar. Applications must be received by December 1, and auditions take place in New York end February or early
March each year.

How many professional classical guitarists have you produced up to the present?
It would be difficult to count! I’ve had students from 16 different countries and many have returned to their
homelands to become leading players. Three students from Japan were Go Nagano, Kenta Kondo, and Masahiro
Masuda. Other former students you may be familiar with include Antigoni Goni & Kevin Gallagher (each 1st Prize
winners of GFA Competition), Mats Bergstrom, Ben Pila, Giuliano Belotti, Johannes Kreusch, Luis Quintero, and
many more.

What is your daily exercise for your good health?


I enjoy a healthy breakfast and practice Transcendental Meditation twice a day which I learned as teenager. I eat
organic and mostly vegetarian whenever possible. Daily exercise is either jogging, walking, hiking, cross-country
skiing, or dancing (I am taking lessons in Latin dance.)

You have received many awards in your professional career. Could you tell us about your most recent awards you
have received?
I received Guitar Player magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Best Classical Guitarist for several consecutive
years. Two of my recordings received GRAMMY Awards: Dreams of a World and Concerti by Christopher
Rouse/Tan Dun.

Could you provide us with your message to Japanese guitar fan?


If you are interested in studying with me, come to the Aspen Music Festival (http://www.aspenmusicfestival.com)
where I give four weeks of master classes each July/August in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado.
Applications are due early January. In addition to the guitar program, students can hear hundreds of concerts with
top instrumentalists, singers and orchestras. You can also learn from me online at http://www.ivideosongs.com
where I teach two works of Savio and Lauro and talk about my experiences.

Tell us about your schedule of concert tour, recording etc. in 2009?


This summer I perform at the Ravenna Festival in ITALY, in Miami, and at the Aspen Music Festival where I direct
the guitar department. Next season, I am soloist with the Detroit Symphony, Nashville Symphony, and Pacific
Symphony in Los Angeles, and give solo recitals, concerts with violinist Mark O’Connor, and performances with
Paul Winter and Thiago de Mello (Journey to the Amazon program). I also continue filming a documentary on my
life and work. © Sharon Isbin

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