The repertoire for guitar and string quartet is fairly small, but Sharon Isbin and the Pacifica String Quartet have been exploring it and collaborating since she invited them to play in a recital at the Aspen Music Festival in 2016. Their new album, Souvenirs of Spain and Italy, brings together intimate works by Boccherini, Vivaldi, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and Turina.

This week’s KDFC Download of the Week is a Boccherini Fandango from the album. You can sign up for our eNotes newsletter at the bottom of this page.

A work that Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco wrote for Segovia in 1950 kicks off the album. “This is a work that Mario called one of his favorite and best pieces of chamber music,” Isbin says. “It’s a very difficult work to put together, because it demands almost a concerto-like virtuosity from each instrument. But we had the leisure of being able to rehearse it a lot, and to perform it before we went into the recording studio, and that really gave it a special flavor.” Adding to their inspiration was a gift from the composer’s granddaughter, who (it turns out) lives close to Sharon Isbin in New York. “She gave us a copy of his manuscript edition of this particular quintet, so we could consult that on a daily basis. And I really felt like Mario was there sitting with us as this whole process unfolded.” The Boccherini Quintet features a guest percussionist: “We invited a terrific player who lives in New York, from Brazil, Eduardo Leandro, to improvise on castanets and tambourine, and that really gives a color and a flavor to it that would have been part of an original dance experience.” The two other works are arrangements; La oración del torero by Joaquín Turina was originally written for a group of very special kind of lutes, but the composer wisely made a version for the much more programmable quartet accompaniment. And they’re using Emilio Pujol’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s Chamber Concerto in D Major, for guitar and three string players. “What Pujol did was to add a viola part, and to sort of rearrange things so the guitar took prominence as a concerto, rather than being backup to violin. And it gives me a chance, in the beautiful slow movement to express my own embellishment in the Baroque performance style.”

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