The Assads: Twice the Guitar Genius
What a joyful and satisfying night it was for aficionados of classical guitar music as the Performing Arts Center
gave us not one but two masters of the instrument onstage at once in Sergio and Odair Assad. The award-winning brothers Assad showcased a fascinating program of composers from their native land of Brazil
. These brilliantly talented brothers have been perfecting their performance art for forty-five years and their command of the instrument is only matched by their skill in arranging compositions that lend themselves to the two guitars played in perfect synchronicity. Each man plays with a distinct style and tone while managing to blend the two into a single narrative. It seems like they have a common musical heart that beats as one but flows through different expressive hands. The resulting sound is amazing and the music is made much better by their unique layers of expression. At times the two instruments work so well together you have to look again at the stage to see four hands at work instead of two.
So much of the classical guitar repertoire is drawn from Spain
it was nice to see a program from just Brazilian composers and works less familiar to audiences here. Moreover, guitarists themselves who knew the instrument intimately composed all of the pieces in the first half. Some of the names are familiar, some not, but the music was wonderfully eclectic and delicious. The first selection was by Ernesto Nazareth, called the father of Brazilian music from the stage and it was an appropriately ethereal piece, “Eponina” that showcased the delicate touch of both men followed by the brisk and playful “Batuque.” In the guitarist composed selections that followed there was the rhythmic, almost dance music of Joao Pernambuco, the deep and sensual samba-like “Manha de Carnival” by Luiz Bonfa along with the bittersweet and wistful “medley” by Anibal Sardinha. The finale of the first half was the dreamy waltz and slightly swinging “Suite Retratos” by Radames Gnatelli. Amazingly, the Assads never glanced at a piece of sheet music and also never missed a note. The guitar playing was passionate and perfect.
After the intermission the show only got better with a stunningly beautiful set of short songs written by Sergio Assad himself and played solo by his brother with deep emotion. This was followed by the more traditional sounding “two works” by Heitor Villa-Lobos which added drama to the program. There was the more familiar sounds of Antonio Carlos Jobim (but not too familiar) and the absolutely exquisite “Palhaco” by Egberto Gismonti. The final “Tahhiyya li Ossoulina,” (written by Sergio) was an evocative tribute to the mixed Lebanese blood of the family Assad which featured plenty of percussion and guitars in tunings that sounded like ouds at some points. The grateful audience begged for an encore and got the lone Spanish piece of the night, some Albeniz that demonstrated the Assad’s versatility and desire to throw in a Latin lollipop. Taken as a whole, the concert was a triumph of great but rarely heard music with superb guitar mastery that made it all sound wonderful.