The New York times
“Most of the opera singers who appear at Carnegie Hall follow the traditional route of singing alongside a pianist. The mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard chose a more unusual partner for her concert on Thursday evening at Zankel Hall, performing mostly Spanish music with the guitarist Sharon Isbin. … Ms. Leonard sounded confident in this repertory, with works like Falla’s “Siete canciones populares españolas” demonstrating the scope of her sultry mezzo, from its plummy lower notes to silvery higher range. She imbued each of the selections on the program with dramatic flair and contrast, opening with three of Federico García Lorca’s “Canciones españolas antiguas.” She took on the air of a storyteller in other songs by Lorca, like “Los mozos de Monléon.” In “Las morillas de Jaén,” she lingered seductively on the name “Marién.” She sang with blazing power in “La Tarara” and with intimacy in selections from Montsalvatge’s “Canciónes negras.” The lineup also featured the premiere of Richard Danielpour’s appealing “… Of Love and Longing,” set to three texts by Rumi. Evocative and melodic, his songs complemented the Spanish works: The passionate, declamatory “This Night of Love” contrasted with the gentle lilt of “Your Beauty.” An encore, Agustín Lara’s “Granada,” concluded the evening on a vibrant note.” —Vivien Schweitzer, The New York Times
“With works partially-curated from Leonard’s recent Preludios recording (in Brian Zeger’s piano accompaniment), the mezzo narrated Andalusian-tinged landscapes of scrappy bullfighters, scorned gypsies, Moorish lovers, Seville celebrations, lamenting mothers and expressive Spanish flamenco. … Well-suited to her deep, charismatic lower register, Leonard gave confident expositions of the folkloric Spanish tales, slipping into characterizations as diverse as an impoverished bullfighter or a jealous gypsy. She filled Lorca’s sorrowful ballad, Romance de Don Boyso, with solid phrasing and poise. A passionate, raucous refrain for Anda, jaleo was underpinned by Isbin’s clattering guitar that mimicked castanets. … Leonard flexed her French muscle for Joaquín Rodrigo’s conservative and somber Aranjuez ma pensée. Following its introspective inflections, she swayed to Cuban-Spanish lullabies and rhythmic poems of Xavier Montsalvatge’s Canciónes negras. … High color repertory was matched to high color presence.” —Courtney Smith, Bachtrack
Isabel Leonard: Preludios
In Isabel Leonard’s first release on Delos, she explores the riches of Spanish song, in all its varied Iberian forms and styles that can be traced back as far as its millennium-old Moorish influences. The generous program encompasses pure folksongs, folk-influenced art songs, dances and popular theater songs by quite a few of Spain’s finest composers of the late-19th and 20th-centuries: Mompou, Falla, García Lorca, Sanjuán, Granados and Montsalvatge.