Sharon Isbin brings heartbreaking ‘Aranjuez’ to LSO

Feb 8, 2017

For the first time in 87 seasons, the Lansing Symphony will be joined by a guitar soloist, and she ranks amongst the greatest guitarists of all time.


She is arguably the greatest living guitarist of any genre and this weekend, Sharon Isbin will be at the Wharton Center playing the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo with the Lansing Symphony, a piece she’s played once or twice, or three… hundred times. But does she keep track anymore?

"I don't." says Isbin, "But it's definitely many hundreds of times at this point. And I had the pleasure of actually knowing Rodrigo and enjoying a friendship with him for 20 years."

The Concierto de Aranjuez is the most performed concerto of the 20th century. And it’s one of those rare works where the story behind its composition is just as moving as the music itself as Isbin explains.

"The music is not only compelling on a technical level but deeply so emotionally. It really captures the essence of the Spanish soul with all it's yearning and its pathos and its jubilation. Part of the reason for that, you have outer movements that are very jubilant and you have an inner movement that came at a very critical time in Joaquin Rodrigo's life. He and his wife were expecting what would have been their first child. She miscarried, they lost the child, she became very ill and nobody knew if she would live or die. So Rodrigo would visit her at the hospital and come back every night unable to sleep and would console himself with this beautiful theme from the Adagio."

[A sample of music from the Concierto de Aranjuez 'Adagio' by Joaquin Rodrigo]

"Fortunately she did recover. They went on to have many years together. The piece is imbued with that sense of loss and the sadness, but yet the hopefulness and it's just very moving to play and to hear every time. I had the honor of recording this several times. The most recent recording I did with the New York Philharmonic. It's on an album of all Latin Guitar Concerti. The other two being by Manuel Ponce from Mexico and Villa-Lobos from Brazil. It's the only recording of the over 2000 that the New York Philharmonic has made, it's the only recording they've done with a guitar soloist." says Isbin.

Sharon Isbin’s recording with the New York Philharmonic and the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquin Rodrigo, is part of her recent 5 album collection released by Warner Classics, but you can also see and hear the genuine article Saturday night at the Wharton Center as Sharon Isbin joins the Lansing Symphony and Maestro Timothy Muffitt. Although this is the second collaboration guitarist Sharon Isbin will have with Maestro Muffitt this concert season, since she also joined him with his other capital city ensemble, the Baton Rouge Symphony a few months ago.

"It's always interesting to do this dynamic and it happens fairly regularly because it's a way I can create synergies here." Says Muffitt about comparing the two orchestral versions of Aranjuez. "But it will sound different, certainly. The personalities exert themselves and so I have the kind of a unique perspective to see two organizations that if you only looked at it on paper wouldn't look very different, but when we hear the actual personality of the performing organization… yeah, it's interesting."

The concert Spain and the Americas with the Lansing Symphony and guest guitarist Sharon Isbin happens Saturday night at 8 in the Wharton Center of East Lansing More information at LansingSymphony.org.