Sharon Isbin reveals the Spanish soul

Sharon Isbin
Guitarist Sharon Isbin performs this weekend with the Minnesota Orchestra. Isbin is playing JoaquinRod Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez.
Photo courtesy of Warner

The signature section of Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez" is the highly emotional second movement, entitled "Adagio." Rodrigo wrote it after his wife had a miscarriage and almost died. Isbin has performed the piece in the aftermath of other tragic events, including at Ground Zero. She says the movement captures the essence of the Spanish soul, but also speaks to a deeper human truth.

"It reaches some part that crosses all boundaries of culture and experience to really relate to very fundamental human emotions of loss," she said. "For example, my brother, this was now a dozen years ago, when he was dying of AIDS had requested that my earlier recording of the second movement be played at his memorial service. That is very much imprinted in my mind and my feelings when I play the piece."

"One of the most challenging experiences I ever had was when I was asked to play at the first memorial service of 9/11 at Ground Zero during the live reading of the names," she said. "I thought 'how am I gonna be able to pull this off,' having experienced the whole thing as a New Yorker and it was very traumatic for all of us as a nation but I just wondered how I was going to keep it together."

"It wasn't until I put my first foot out on the stage and looked out onto the faces of 24-thousand family members and survivors who were right up against the stage, many of them holding up posters of their loved ones," she said. "I could actually have eye contact with people. I realized this why I'm on the planet. I'm here to play music, to serve the purpose of healing and communication and sharing and all of that, and any questions or qualms that I had about how I would be able to manage evaporated, and I went into some altered state."

"It wasn't until later when I watched the broadcast that I completely fell apart, Isbin said. "So I think as a performer you get to the edge where you really touch the emotions that you're communicating but you don't go to the other side."

Guitar virtuoso and Minneapolis native Sharon Isbin, who is helping the Minnesota Orchestra open its 2008-2009 season with a performance of Joaquin Rodrigo's "Concerto de Aranjuez." Concerts are tonight and Saturday night at Orchestra Hall at 8:00.

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