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Café Concert: Brasil Guitar Duo

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Video: Brasil Guitar Duo performs live in the WQXR Café

Brazilian music draws on a rich vein of influences, including African sounds, jazz and European classical influences. Those sounds come together in the music of the Brasil Guitar Duo, which recently visited the WQXR Café.

Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora came together 15 years ago while music students in Sao Paulo, where the pair grew up. Enrolled in a chamber music class but bored with collaborating with violinists or flutists, the two guitarists decided to start performing together. "The chemistry and sympathy was something natural,” said Lora. “We don’t have to work on that. But over the years we’ve worked on the sound and the subtle things that make a lot of difference.”

The duo’s complementary musical sensibilities and playing styles helped push the group to a top prize at the 2006 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. Soon tour dates began to pile up and recordings fell into place – including a two-CD set of the complete guitar duos by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, and another featuring the complete Bach Flute Sonatas with flutist Marina Piccinini.

Pondering the guitar's legacy in Brazil, Luiz refers to the arrival of the instrument in the New World in the 16th century, brought by Spanish sailors. Latin American countries developed new musical languages for the instrument, especially in Brazil. Classical influences continued to buzz around the periphery. Luiz and Lora are adamant about promoting the fact that "Brazil is much more than bossa nova."

"That’s why we play rhythms from the Northeast of the country,” says Lora, referring to signature styles like the Forró, baião, frevo and maracatu. “Bossa nova is great – everybody loves it – but there’s so much more to the country.”

Despite inheriting a duo legacy that includes the famed Assad Brothers – who also hail from Sao Paulo – Lora and Luiz have had to carve out a niche for themselves. Luiz became an arranger, recasting the work of composers including Bach, Scarlatti and Piazzolla, while Lora has composed original pieces, including the Preludio that’s featured below. Add to the mix Brazilian pieces (by Jacob do Bandolim, Pixinguinha, Djavan, Egberto Gismonti) and newly commissioned works (including an upcoming two-guitar concerto by Paulo Bellinati) and the group is striving to cast a wide net.

"We have the classical background for taking care of the sonorities and the articulations and then at the same time we play Bach in a different way," Lora explained. "We don’t play it like a German guitar player. We play it like Brazilians.”

Video: Amy Pearl; Sound: John Delore; Text: Brian Wise; Interview: Jeff Spurgeon