Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, Blu-ray (2015)

Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, Blu-ray (2015)

Cast: Sharon Isbin, Mark O’Connor, Romero Lubambo, Leonard Slatkin, Tan Dun, Joan Baez, David Hyde Pierce
Director: Susan Dangel
Studio: American Public Television/ Video Artists International VAI BD 8202 [3/24/15]
Video: 1.77:1 for 16:9, 1080i HD color
Audio: English PCM stereo
No subtitles
No region code
Extras: Additional short scenes: duet with Romero Lubambo on La Catedral by Mangoré, comments by Leonard Slatkin, Howard Shore’s “Billy’s Theme” from The Departed, Sharon’s dance lesson
Length: Documentary – 56 min.; Extras – 30 min.
Rating: *****

The documentary explores the inspiring journey the classical guitarist has taken, which has expanded the landscape of the guitar in classical music. Sharon has won two Grammys and risen to the top in a male-dominated field thru her performances, recordings and teaching. There’s a colorful assembly of talking heads in the film: composers such as Tan Dunn, Christopher Rouse, Joan Tower and John Corigliano; other guitarists such as Steve Vai and Stanley Jordan, and just plain celebrities such as Michelle Obama, Garrison Keillor, and Martina Navratilova.

There are music excerpts by Mangoré, Lauro, Rodrigo, Jobim, O’Connor, Shore, Albeniz and others. She performs selected movements from O’Connor’s Strings & Threads Suite, with Mark O’Connor on violin. She is shown to work well with various composers and conductors, and to being responsible for commissioning countless works for the classical guitar which expanded its repertory. There is even an excerpt about her acting in “The L Word” series and her coming out as a gay woman. Isbin created the first guitar department at The Juilliard School and also teaches annually at the Aspen Music Festival. Sharon’s childhood is covered in stills and home movies, and her father is reported to say she had to practice a certain time before she could go out and shoot off her rockets – a longtime scientific interest of hers.

The image quality of this Blu-ray, originally made for showing on public television, is excellent, and the stereo soundtrack converts well to pseudo-surround if you wish to do that.

—John Sunier

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