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Overflowing with Iberian spirit, Sharon Isbin q&a's on Alma Espanola with Classical Guitar

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Sharon Isbin and Argentinian American mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard's enchanting recent album Alma Española is, according to the guitarist, the first devoted to Spanish "art song" since Narciso Yepes and Castilian mezzo Teresa Berganza put out their Canciones Populares Españolas record on Deutsche Grammophon 40 years ago. That LP consisted of Federico Garcia Lorca's 13 Canciones española antiguas and Manuel de Falla's Siete canciones populares españolas. Those two suites form the backbone of the release by Isbin and Leonard-with new arrangements by Isbin on the Garcia Lorca set ("It was really important for me to expand on the guitar parts in a way that had not been done before," she says)-but there is also quite a lot more: A splendid version of Joaquín Rodrigo's Aranjuez ma pensée (with touching and evocative lyrics by Rodrigo's wife, Victoria Kamhi); Agustín Lara's lovely Granada; a pair of Isbin adaptations of works by Spanish composer Xavier Montsalvatge; and two splendid solo showcases for Isbin: Granados' Danza española No. 5 and Tárrega's Capricho árabe.

The blend of Isbin's guitar and Leonard's voice is both powerful and exquisite, and listeners who take the time to really delve into the lyrics of the songs-which range from impressionistic scenes and small life moments to dramatic stories about love and death (by bull!)-will be richly rewarded. (The accompanying booklet offers both the Spanish lyrics and English translations.) The recording, produced by David Frost and recorded by Tim Martyn and Bryan Losch, is exemplary. It's a wonderful project in every respect.

Classical Guitar's BLAIR JACKSON caught up with Sharon Isbin in late July, from the Aspen Music Festival and they talked about the new album. READ THE Classical Guitar Q&A with SI