Mezzo soprano Isabel Leonard and guitarist Sharon Isbin have a new album on Bridge Records called Alma Española. The album features art songs by Spanish composers including Manuel de Falla and Federico Garcia Lorca.
Many of the Spanish-language art songs on this album have not been recorded with a guitarist and a native Spanish-speaking singer in over forty years. Isbin created new arrangements of several of the pieces, such as the “Canciones españolas antiguas” of Garcia Lorca and the “Cinco canciones negras” of Xavier Montsalvatge. These arrangements are given their world premieres in this recording.
Other pieces on the album may be more familiar to listeners, such as the Spanish Dance No. 5 (Andaluza) of Enrique Granados, which Isbin performs as a soloist. Another notable piece is “Aranjuez ma pensée,” a song by Joaquin Rodrigo based on the iconic Adagio movement of his Concierto de Aranjuez.
Isbin and Leonard began collaborating in 2014. Leonard had performed many of these songs with piano accompaniment, but she and Isbin wanted to explore the sounds of the songs with guitar arrangements. Unhappy with several existing arrangements, the two musicians collaborated to create new versions that they felt most accurately captured the spirit of the songs.