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Two Beijing Musicians Play with “Saudade”

First Unitarian Church of Cincinnati
03/13/2011 -  
Johann Sebastian Bach/Ferruccio Busoni: Chaconne from Violin Partita No.2 in D Minor, BWV 1004
Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco: Sonatina Canonica op. 196
Sérgio Assad: Maracaipe
Radamés Gnattali: Retratos Suite

The Beijing Guitar Duo: Meng Su, Yameng Wang (guitars)

The Beijing Guitar Duo (© Steven Spartana)

Brazilian music is a rich melting pot that remains largely undiscovered by most concertgoers. The Beijing Duo has explored in depth much of that music. Their Cincinnati Matinée Musicale concert opened with the highly contrapuntal Chaconne movement from the Violin Partita No.2 in D Minor by J.S. Bach in a transcription for duo guitars by Ulrich Stracke after the daunting Busoni piano transcription. The Duo played it with agile clarity and serene musicality, both members playing as one as they bounced the melodic line back and forth between the two. The delightful, both Mozartian and Spanish-inflected three-movement Sonatina Canonica by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, followed in an energetic rendition that showcased many aspects of the technique of this gifted pair, especially their aplomb with roulades and fancy figurations, whether plucking, picking, strumming or displaying flawless legato. Sérgio Assad dedicated the two-part Maracaipe to the Beijing Duo. The two musicians played this Brazilian fantasy with gusto, a jazzy-improvisatory “feel” and supple bounciness perfectly suited to the piece's contemporary sensibility.

Radamés Gnattali, a 20th century Brazilian pianist and composer who wrote extensively for the guitar, created in his Retratos a decidedly tonal, rhapsodic and impassioned celebration of Brazilian pop-urban music with its exciting Afro-European-Indian and jazz strains. The suite includes Pixinguinha, a soulful 19th century-style Rondo or “Choros” (Portuguese for “lament”) replete with descending arpeggios over a cantabile melody. Ernesto Nazareth, a haunting slow waltz and Anacleto de Medeiros, a melancholy “Choutiça” similar to a classic “Schottisch” and Chiquinha Gonzaga, a slow and sensual “corta jaca” samba, chock-full of rhythmic intricacy followed in quick succession. The title of each of the four movements honors the memory of a different Brazilian musician and the entire work is imbued with that ineffable emotion the Portuguese and Brazilians call “saudade” – a wondrous mix of sadness, melancholy, homesickness, and joy. The Beijing Duo found every possible nuance in Gnattali's work, playing it with both youthful exuberance and mature musicianship, and earning at the end much-deserved applause that brought them back for a hastily-announced Scarlatti sonatina as their single encore.

The estimable Matinée Musicale Club of Cincinnati, now in its 98th season deserves its very own standing ovation for bringing to its audience concert artists such as the Beijing Guitar Duo and enriching the City's musical life. Pianist Olga Kern plays their next concert on April 7th of this year. For more information visit them at matinee-musicale-cincinnati.org

The Beijing Guitar Duo

Rafael de Acha



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