David Leisner and David Del Tredici confront the Facts of Life

David Leisner and David Del Tredici confront the Facts of Life
David Leisner can’t escape Spanish music. He’s a guitarist. “It’s been a crusade since early in my career to demonstrate that guitar programs don’t need to have Spanish music,” says Leisner.  “Most of the guitar repertoire is not Spanish at all! The pieces most people think of by Albeniz and Granados were originally piano pieces. “The majority of music written for the guitar before the 20th century...
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Robert Baksa’s music speaks softly

Robert Baksa’s music speaks softly
Composer Robert Baksa readily admits that he writes music in which the underlying intelligence and rigor is not always apparent on first listen. And he’s comfortable with that — mostly. “A review of my first Flute Sonata said that the harmony was so simple it would make Mozart or Handel climb the walls,” Baksa says. “Actually, there’s polytonality in that piece, it just doesn’t sound that way.” Baksa’s...
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Preview & review: Sharon Isbin & Mark O’Connor in Albany

Preview & review: Sharon Isbin & Mark O’Connor in Albany
Perhaps there’s something about the humble guitar that brings people together. Take the case of Sharon Isbin.  Though widely regarded as the top classical guitar soloist of our time, she keeps teaming up with other artists, often from far a field the traditional realm of so-called concert music. One of her most recent collaborations is with heavy metal guitarist Steve Vai, better known for his work with Frank Zappa, David...
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Sharon Isbin at the White House

Sharon Isbin at the White House
Sharon Isbin performed solo and with Joshua Bell in an Evening of Classical Music at the White House on November 4. Here’s a shot of the First Listeners taking it in, followed by two beautiful clips, compliments of the White House. In the first, Sharon performs Albeniz’s Asturias and Mangoré’s Waltz Op. 8, No. 4, then it’s a duet of Paganini’s Cantabile.
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Make space for Laura Kaminsky

Make space for Laura Kaminsky
Around 1998 when I was pulling together artists for the disc “Lesbian American Composers,” Laura Kaminsky wrote me a rather curt letter about the whole project. A simple “No, thanks” would have sufficed. I’d actually forgotten about that, having put out of my mind some of the stormier aspects of bringing to market that title and the two volumes of “Gay American Composers” discs at...
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Sharon Isbin’s musical journey

Sharon Isbin’s musical journey
It was back in 1994 that Sharon Isbin, the preeminent classical guitarist of today, first disclosed to the press that she was a lesbian.  The decision followed several years of agonizing over the possible implications, and the internal dialogue continued well after word was out. “Each time I would walk in a room I thought ‘they know,’” she told me a few years ago. “This deep echoy bass voice kept saying ‘they...
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Concert review: Rufus Wainwright at The Egg

There’s more than just music in the Wainwright gene pool. Also, self-deprecating humor and the general ability to entertain. All this came through Saturday night at The Egg, in the concert by Rufus Wainwright with an opening performance by his half sister Lucy Wainwright Roche. (Their father is the folk singer Loudon Wainwright.) Lucy offered a handful of fine original folk ballads but she could consider working in stand...
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CD review: Spanish concertos from Sharon Isbin

In the 10 years since classical guitarist Sharon Isbin came out publicly as a lesbian, she’s won a Grammy Award, and has had one recording after another hit the Billboard charts. So much for the dangers of living an open life. Isbin has become the preeminent classical guitarist of our time on her own terms – by studying Bach but also embracing world music, and by commissioning some of today’s most adventuresome composers...
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