The Brasil Guitar Duo Makes Its Seattle Debut

Douglas Lora and Joao Luiz of the Brasil Guitar Duo

Douglas Lora and Joao Luiz met as teens in Brazil, began playing music together 20 years ago and have since garnered worldwide respect and applause for their unique combination of Brazilian and classical music. Lora has taught workshops at Port Townsend’s Centrum every summer for years, but the Brasil Guitar Duo has never before performed in Seattle.

“They bring something fresh and new to the guitar repertory, the dance rhythms of Brazil, its beautiful harmonies,” says Hilary Field, executive director of Seattle Classic Guitar Society, which presents them on Saturday at Nordstrom Recital Hall. “The dance is inside of them, and they play like brothers, like one person.”

The performance this weekend begins with transcriptions of two short Rameau harpsichord works. “We always play Rameau,” Lora says. “The harpsichord is a plucked instrument too and translates well for guitar. I play a seven-string guitar with an extra low bass so we have almost the whole range of a harpsichord.”

The program also includes several pieces by Egberto Gismonti, a crossover composer who studied classical music with famed pedagogue Nadia Boulanger and uses a lot a traditional Brazilian rhythm. “He’s the most important contemporary composer in Brazil today,” Lora says, noting that Gismonti follows Heitor Villa-Lobos in marrying classical and indigenous styles.

One of Luiz’ professors at the Mannes School of Music, where he studied, was composer Frederic Hand, who wrote a work for the Duo called “Still.” It, too, is on the program, as are works by composers Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Marco Pereira, plus what Lora says is the most important piece composed recently for guitar, a2009 sonata by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer titled “Sonata de los Viajeros” (“Sonata of the Travelers”). Last year the Duo received a Grammy nomination for its Naxos recording of it and other Brouwer two-guitar works. The sonata is a substantial work, and it’s possible to follow the travelers in the music from the titles of the movements: to cold lands, then to Greece to marvel at an Aphrodite statue as described by Cervantes, back in time to Bach in Leipzig, and home again via the Antilles. The whole is a program such as we rarely hear here.

Seattle Classic Guitar Society presents four such international guitar players or groups at Nordstrom Recital Hall each year, as well as four free concerts by well-known performers at the Frye Art Museum. A discussion follows each concert and SCGS always hosts a masterclass the day after in addition to occasional workshops on ideas and techniques.

The Society, founded by a group of friends in 1958 when few people in Seattle played classical guitar, celebrates its 60th anniversary next year. Today, it numbers about 250 members, including teens, amateurs and professionals, and runs several school programs and open mics. Its guitar orchestra meets weekly, led by Mark Hilliard Wilson, who makes arrangements and transcriptions for it, and it works on everything from Catalan folk songs to Piazzolla to Corelli.

Seattle Classic Guitar Society presents the Brasil Guitar Duo at Nordstrom Recital Hall on Saturday, Nov. 18.