Every once in awhile we encounter musicians whose playing is so perfectly conjoined, matched, polished and perfected that we are drawn into the music and become a part of it. This happened last July when the Carmel Bach Festival presented its Thursday evening concert – “Baroque to Bluegrass.” The magicians who mesmerized us on that occasion were Caterina Lichtenberg and Mike Marshall, two wizards of the mandolin, whose delicate control of an awesome variety of beautifully shaped sounds and phrasing was every bit as impressive as their blazing virtuosity.
This same phenomenon happened last night when “Music at All Saints” presented “Brasil Guitar Duo” at All Saints’ Church in Carmel. The two magicians who held us in their spell during this concert were classical guitarists João Luiz and Douglas Lora, whose mastery of their instruments is so effortless and natural that their virtuosity merely reinforced and enhanced the glorious music they produced.
As I sat down before the concert and opened the printed program, the first thing I noticed was that none of the music on the program was familiar to me. How often does that happen in a concert? Almost never! Only two composers listed in the program, Rameau and Castelnuovo-Tedesco had I ever heard of before. Actually, when the concert began, I discovered that the opening works, listed as “Pièces for Clavecin,” were quite familiar after all as Rameau’s “Gavotte and Variations” and “Cyclops.” These are well-known keyboard works often performed by both harpsichordists and pianists. However, hearing them performed in an arrangement for two guitars opened up new avenues of expression and color that added an exciting fresh perspective to the music.
Most of us probably have a limited acquaintance with Brazilian music as it has evolved during the past two hundred years. Except for the most popular styles, such as bossa nova, samba, choro and lambada, it is safe to say that much of the music presented by the “Brasil Guitar Duo” contained quotes or references to folk idioms, styles and tunes that are completely unknown to us.
Ultimately it didn’t matter, because the playing of João Luiz and Douglas Lora just continued to draw us in and envelop us with their beautiful sounds and exotic rhythms. The printed program seemed more a point of departure for the improvisatory-sounding music they performed for us, since they substituted pieces and made changes often enough so that some people in the audience were occasionally confused and uncertain where we were in the program, when it actually ended and what the encore was.
But, that was the true essence of how these two magnificent artists perform for an audience. Rather than a formal concert where the printed program was followed meticulously, this concert had the feel of an impromptu, improvisatory “jam session” where the artists weren’t going through their tricks like trained seals, but just up on stage enjoying playing together and entertaining us in the process.
This was a concert you weren’t likely to forget!