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MUSIC REVIEW

Brazilian brothers offer dazzling guitar duet

The Brazilian-born Assad brothers, a guitar duo, perform with almost telepathic unity. Barely glancing at each other, eyes often closed, they trade lead and supporting roles with astonishing fluidity. With your own eyes closed, it's impossible to tell who's playing what.

In a Bank of America Celebrity Series concert Saturday night at Jordan Hall, older brother Sérgio Assad made the soft-spoken stage announcements, while ponytailed Odair Assad let his fingers do the talking.

The two opened with three of Jean-Philippe Rameau's "Pieces de Clavecin, " translated from harpsichord to guitars. They delineated the dancing counterpoint with a flexible pulse, one playing the left-hand keyboard part and the other the right, switching back and forth.

Two works by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos were adapted for guitar duo by Sérgio. "A Lenda do Caboclo" began with gentle strumming and ambled along with a raggy gait. "Choros No. 5, Alma Brasileira " was darker and more rhapsodic, the two guitars playing sweeping, harplike arpeggios.

Next came the evening's first work expressly written for two guitars, Joaquin Rodrigo's three-movement "Tonadilla para dos guitarras. " The spiky, dissonant first movement contrasted plucked notes with rapid strumming. In a bravura display, the brothers led each other in a merry chase through the busy textures of the final movement.

Sérgio's "Tyyhhiia li Ossoulina, " a tribute to his family's Lebanese roots, paired modal Arabic melodies with European harmonies. Then "Bandoneon" and "Zita," by Argentina's Astor Piazzolla , opened the concert's second half. Transferred to guitar, what the pieces lost in thrust and cut they gained in beautifully transparent exposure of their masterful construction.

The duo returned to Brazil for two songlike compositions from Egberto Gismonti, "Agua e Vinho" and "Infancia" -- the first slow, sad, and spacious, the second whimsical. A movement from Roland Dyens's "Côté Nord," written for the Assads, fell too frequently into modern music and guitar cliche s.

The program ended with two entrancing pieces by Brazilian composer Radamés Gnattali : "Valsa," a seductive waltz, and "Corta Jaca, " a bluesy, syncopated jaunt.

A standing ovation brought the brothers back for an encore: Sérgio's spare, bittersweet "Farewell," which sent the audience home, as he said, "with something nice in your ears."

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