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Guitarists demonstrate their classical talents Varied styles: Local musicians present outstanding recording of Bach, Handel and Scarlatti.


"Baroque Inventions," music of Scarlatti, Bach and Handel, performed by Julian Gray and Ronald Pearl; Dorian DOR-90209

It is an eternal mystery why the music gods deigned to have Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel and Domenico Scarlatti born in the same year, 1685, but 300 years later the world is still captivated by their talent.

Their music is in wonderful hands when performed by the Baltimore guitar duo of Julian Gray and Ronald Pearl, who seem to have acquired seven-league boots since they signed a six-disc contract with Dorian. Their first release, "The Magic Circle," was impressive, and this second one is even more so. Who knows what the third will bring?

Mr. Gray, who teaches at Peabody Conservatory and Essex Community College, and Mr. Pearl, who teaches at Loyola and Frederick Community College, have recorded their own transcriptions of the masters' works in an effort to paint their similar yet disparate styles. They have succeeded admirably, so much so that they deserve to rank right up there with the mighty Assad brothers, who generally are thought to be the best guitar duo extant.

"American Landscapes," music of John Corigliano, Joseph Schwantner and Lukas Foss, performed by Sharon Isbin; Virgin Classics D 108794

When Juilliard started a classical guitar department, it named Sharon Isbin as director, which signifies her station among the guitar elite. For the last decade, her continuing efforts to expand the instrument's repertoire through the use of modern compositions have only added to her excellent reputation.

Her latest release, "American Landscapes," comprises three concertos by contemporary U.S. composers, which were given their world premieres by Ms. Isbin: John Corigliano's "Troubadours," Joseph Schwantner's "From Afar A Fantasy for Guitar and Orchestra" and Lukas Foss' "American Landscapes."

On this recording, Ms. Isbin is joined by the St. Paul (Minn.) Chamber Orchestra, Hugh Wolff conducting, in an exciting zTC program not recommended for the faint of heart. Fans of traditional guitar concertos may not appreciate the sometimes dissonant passages found in this 66-minute recording, especially the Copland-esque title piece by Mr. Foss, but there is no question of Ms. Isbin's ability and certainly no doubting her courage in bringing new works to the fore.

"Music of Barrios," performed by David Russell; Telarc CD-80373

Augustin Barrios Mangore (1885-1944) was a Paraguayan troubadour who wrote incredibly beautiful music for the guitar.

Only in recent years has the considerable production of this Latin American traveler been thoroughly explored, and certainly there is no finer interpreter of his works than David Russell, the Scotland-born guitarist who has called Spain home for most of his 40 years.

Mr. Russell's sensational technique enables him to give just due to the many emotions contained in Barrios' works. There are humble pieces and sultry pieces and romantic pieces and well, a serious listener cannot help but be overwhelmed.

Aficionados of the instrument will be particularly impressed by Mr. Russell's reading of Barrios' popular tremolo pieces as he evokes almost painful melancholy with that rapid right-hand finger movement.

Hear the music

To hear excerpts from the CDs reviewed here, call Sundial at (410) 783-1800 and enter the four-digit code 6190.

For other local Sundial numbers, see the Sundial directory on Page 2A.

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