Two impeccable guitarists soar together – The Daily Gazette, Feb. 19, 2016

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Two impeccable guitarists soar together

BY GERALDINE FREEDMAN/For The Daily Gazette February 19, 2016

SARATOGA SPRINGS — A single virtuosic guitarist is one thing, but when you put two together — like Italian guitarists Matteo Mela and Lorenzo Micheli — the result is more than just a dynamic partnership.

On Thursday evening at Skidmore College’s Zankel Music Center, these two guitarists who call themselves SoloDuo produced an entirely new repertoire few other guitarists would attempt. The concert was part of the Sterne Virtuoso Series.

Most of the pieces were originally composed for piano but had been arranged for two guitars. So it was rather startling for many in the large crowd to hear Scarlatti sonatas, Debussy’s “Suite Bergamasque,” Bach’s “French Suite No. 5,” and Beethoven’s Sonata (“Moonlight”) Op. 27, No.2 played on guitars. Rather than just have one guitar play the melodies and the other to play the bass, the lines were integrated between the guitarists without sacrificing the piece’s integrity.

And how those guitarists played: an impeccable and formidable technique, control of dynamics in the most subtle ranges, sensitive phrasing, a remarkably intuitive musicianship and a flawless memory. The guitarists rarely looked at each other. It was all done through listening. Perhaps, because they’ve been together almost 16 years, each knows what the other will do.

They both have a very efficient picking style with an economy of effort. This allowed them to produce streams of scalar passages with not a note out of place. And their touch ranged from extremely delicate to brusque, so dynamic contrasts were well controlled.

The Scarlatti was masterful right down to the slight nuances and subtle accents. Debussy had lovely harmonies, perfect harmonics, and interesting tempo shifts. Only the famous “Clair de lune” segment didn’t work as well on guitar because a piano’s pedal blurs the colors better.

Bellini’s “Il pirate” Overture, a vocal piece arranged by 19th century guitar great Mauro Giuliani, had plenty of splash, drama and operatic flourishes. Bach sounded surprisingly elegant with graceful tempos, pretty ornamentation, and quick interweaving lines.

The bar was raised, however, for the Beethoven. Difficult on piano, it was vastly more difficult on guitar with awkward connections and many chords. The guitarists dug in with total focus. The first movement had a faster tempo for better flow; the slower second was tuneful and the finale whizzed by.

A standing ovation brought a stylish performance of a virtuosic yet enigmatic tango from Piazzolla’s Suite for Two Guitars.

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