- Concert de Gaudi for guitar & orchestra
- Concerto for guitar & orchestra ("Yi2")
Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin is a remarkably versatile performer. Her 20-plus recordings cover a wide range of styles: from Baroque and latin to folk and even jazz-fusion. But more impressive are her efforts to extend the guitar's repertoire through commissioning works by contemporary composers. With this recording, Isbin adds two more premieres to her extensive resume, performing a pair of concertos for guitar and orchestra by Christopher Rouse and Tan Dun. Rouse's work, entitled Concert de Gaudi, takes as inspiration the fantastically surreal work of Barcelona's visionary architect, Antonio Gaudi, and a sense of his eccentric, organic structures inhabits the concerto. A Baltimore native and student of George Crumb, Rouse uses Spanish musical idioms as points of reference in his work -- such as the opening flamenco flourish -- and subjects them to distortion and bending along the way, creating a dreamlike musical landscape redolent of Spain. Chinese composer Tan Dun's concerto, Yi2, also has audible Spanish influences, but it melds those with evocations of the traditional Chinese lute, the p'i-p'a, forming an unusual and evocative cross-cultural blend of sonorities. The cultural mix extends to the album's performers, too: Isbin is American; Muhai Tang, the conductor, is Chinese; and the Gulbenkian Orchestra, which performs here with precision and style, is based in Lisbon, Portugal. The contemporary works on this program are a far cry from the inviting, folksy styles Isbin traversed in her Grammy-winning Dreams of a World. But don't be put off by the "contemporary" label: These are interesting and often beautiful works, thoughtfully and sensitively performed. Isbin is a true musical explorer, and we should not hesitate to go along for the ride.