Dallas — Last week the Allegro Guitar Series presented a concert featuring a pair of guitar virtuosi as a duo: Carlos Barbosa-Lima and Larry Del Casale. Brazilian Barbosa-Lima was an established artist when a mutual friend introduced him to Del Casale. The Dallas and Fort Worth concerts last weekend featured Barbosa-Lima as a soloist as well as a partner in the duo.
Except for a few pieces from repertoire of other instruments, such as an arrangement of a Gershwin prelude, the music was Latin based; much of it from Brazil, as you might expect. These selections were based on mostly dance rhythms and the pair kept the beat as steady as dancers would. The two players performed with such precise ensemble that they sounded like one player. Their technical mastery was impressive and they deftly executed all of the extended abilities of the instrument, from harmonics to percussive effects.
Most of the composers on the program are names that are not familiar to a general audience, including this writer, and of the previous generation of guitarists/composers: Alvaro Carrillio, Albert Dominguez and Ary Barroso. They changed the order of the program, left out some selections and added others. However, this really didn’t matter since they were all in the same vein. Almost all of them are arrangements for guitar duo by Barbosa-Lima.
There were some easily recognizable selections as well. One was the aforementioned Gershwin Prelude and Mason Williams’ Classical Gas. Another selection that worked surprisingly well was another Barbosa-Lima arrangement, “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina,” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit show Evita. In his hands, this word heavy song became something much more lyrical.
As an encore, the duo played the very familiar Tico Tico no fubá. Composed by Zequinha de Abreu in 1917, this clever Brazilian classic about a sparrow who steals the cornmeal (fubá) and puts on airs like a canary. It is impossible to hear it without picturing Carmen Miranda, complete with her fruit headdress, in the film Copacabana (1947).
On a separate note: Who are the top classical guitarists touring today? Easy. OK, here is a harder one. Who makes up the top ten guitar duos on the concert circuit? Stumped? Not a fair question really because, other than the Romero clan, classical (and Flamenco) guitarists rarely rise to the level of vox populi.
Admittedly, you can say the same thing about organists or the higher levels of any instrument, for that matter. Most concertgoers can only name a few top violinists, or even soprani for that matter.
However, local attendees to the marvelous concerts presented by the Allegro Guitar Series cannot only name these exceptional and virtuosic guitarists are, they probably have heard, or will hear, them play. This is due to the laid-back energy of Christopher McGuire, a well-known guitarist himself, who is the Artistic Director of the organization, which began as the Fort Worth Classic Guitar Society (and still uses that name for the Cowtown performances). Typical of his low-key manner, you have to hunt to find his name anywhere in the program. (Hint: it is buried a very short list of staff of a page with a listing of lots of board members.)
The Allegro Guitar Series brings something refreshingly different to the classical music buff’s usual diet of string quartets, symphonies and operas.