GUITAR x 2, pleasure squared
Bar Harbor Times
August 14, 2003
BLUE HILL — GUITAR x 2, the duo Harris Becker and
Pasquale Bianculli, brought the unique intimacy of classical guitars and
lutes to the Liberty School in Blue Hill on Saturday, Aug. 9.
It was an evening of serious but buoyant music,
encompassing the works of guitarist-composers from the 16th century to the
present, and requiring a masterful array of virtuoso techniques from both
The classical guitar has a long, cyclical history of
mad popularity and complete dismissal. The modern classical guitar era
began when Andres Segovia synthesized a technique that was strong enough
to fill a hall without amplification and precise enough for an emotionally
charged performance. His success revitalized the existing guitar
repertoire, and inspired new generations of guitarists and composers. The
virtuoso classical guitar duo was also rediscovered, reenergized and put
Because the guitar is played right next to the
heart, I love to think it is played by the heart itself, and I never hear
good classical playing without feeling connected to our common humanity.
GUITAR x 2 has the skill sensitivity to give an
audience that connection. The program was filled with composers who
clearly knew the outer limits of the instrument and had no fear of going
there. When great players compose for an instrument they love, and other
great players take up the challenge, the audience gets to hear a sonic
world that few of us could ever reach on our own.
GUITAR x 2 has beautiful balance of tone and timbre.
Mr. Becker and Mr. Bianculli have played together for many years, and
their communication is flawless. Duets are not just two easy parts put
together to sound hard. The
opposite is often true. The first piece of the evening, Souvenir de Russie,
Op. 63 by Fernando Sor (1778-1839), was probably written to be played with
another master guitarist-composer of the era, Aguado. Sor — always
referred to as the “Beethoven of the guitar,” composed complex works
that demanded uncompromised technique.
The duo separated for two sets of solo lute. Mr.
Bianculli played what he referred to as “folk lute,” a group of
traditional tunes used for dancing and personal amusement
in the 1600s. These were a charming link to the rest of the
program. The use of popular music then, as now, brought a sense of
familiarity to new works written to be listened to.
Mr. Becker played works of the famous lutenist-composer,
John Dowland (1563-1626). Dowland wrote songs, dances and “Fancies”
excursions into a theme, a rhythm, a whatever, that kept going until there
was nothing more to say.
Most of the works on this program were modern, and
included “Prayer,” a beautiful meditation by Fred Hand, as well the
stunning Long Island Suite Op. 101 composed for the duo by Carlo
Domeniconi. Like much modern guitar music, this work calls on the
guitar’s ability to be playful without sounding giddy, and philosophical
without being stodgy.
The last works were by three modern Brazilian
guitarist-composers. Although the composers, Sergio Assad (b. 1952), Celso
Machado (b. 1953) and Paulo Bellinati (b. 1950) come from the same
venerated traditions, the juxtaposition of these works perfectly
demonstrated the infinity of sound within the guitar. The irrepressible
Brazilians use all the percussive qualities of the guitar, and the effects
were exhilarating. (A preconcert lecture by guitar maker Thomas Bazzolo
touched on the sounds of the wood used for different parts of the guitar,
so the percussive elements were even more vivid.) The night was hot and
humid, too, and a dream of being carried to Brazil on wings of song seemed
perfectly reasonable for that moment.
concert was produced by Guitar Intensives and Liberty School in Blue Hill,
who are sponsoring a week of instruction in all guitar genres. The quality
of the concert bodes well for Guitar Intensives, and we should be hearing
more from them in the future. I hope to have the opportunity to hear
GUITAR x 2 again — and again.