Brasil Guitar Duo | Ghosting

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by Brasil Guitar Duo

CAG Records announces the release of its latest album, Ghosting, by the Brasil Guitar Duo. Featuring original compositions as well as works by Rameau, Villa-Lobos, Egberto Gismonti, and others, the album spans the range of repertoire for guitar duo.
Genre: Classical: Chamber Music
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Pièces de Clavecin: Les Cyclopes
3:30 $0.99
2. Pièces de Clavecin: Gavotte avec 6 Doubles
7:11 $0.99
3. Suite Op. 142: Molto espressivo
1:59 $0.99
4. Suite Op. 142: Cantabile
2:35 $0.99
5. Suite Op. 142: Mosso e deciso
0:46 $0.99
6. Suite Op. 142: Semplice e tranquillo
3:08 $0.99
7. Suite Op. 142: Cantabile, misterioso e sostenuto
2:59 $0.99
8. Suite Op. 142: Con espressione
3:09 $0.99
9. Suite Op. 142: Allegro deciso
1:33 $0.99
10. Bachianas Brasileiras No. 4: Prelúdio
3:18 $0.99
11. Posludio
2:57 $0.99
12. Valsa
3:23 $0.99
13. Djavan's Portrait
4:13 $0.99
14. 7 Anéis
8:24 $0.99
15. Ghosting
9:33 $0.99
16. Bate-Coxa
3:32 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
A 2006 winner of the Concert Artists Guild International Competition, the Brasil Guitar Duo has been hailed by Classical Guitar magazine for its “maturity of musicianship and technical virtuosity”. Its innovative programming features a seamless blend of traditional and Brazilian works, resulting in a global touring schedule and a growing catalogue of critically acclaimed recordings. Duo members João Luiz and Douglas Lora met in São Paulo as teenage guitar students and have been performing together for twenty years, including on major concert series and at festivals in Cuba, Germany, England, South Korea, Colombia, and Brazil.

The Duo’s first album, in 2007, was Bom Partido, a CAG Records release featuring all Brazilian repertoire that prompted Steve Marsh to write in Classical Guitar, “The maturity of musicianship and technical virtuosity displayed on this debut recording by João Luiz and Douglas Lora is simply outstanding”. The Duo has also won praise for a collaboration with flutist Marina Piccinini that featured all of J.S. Bach’s sonatas for flute and harpsichord, arranged by the Duo. In 2014, the Duo gave the Cuban premiere of Leo Brouwer’s Sonata de Los Viajeros, which they also recorded as part of an album of Brouwer’s complete works for two guitars for Naxos, released in 2015 and nominated for a Latin Grammy award for Best New Composition.

The Duo’s principal teacher was Henrique Pinto, and Luiz and Lora have also worked privately with Fabio Zanon, Paulo Martelli, Sergio Abreu, and Alice Artzt. Lora earned his Master’s degree from the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music as a student of Dr. Rene Gonzalez. Luiz received his Master’s degree from Mannes School of Music The New School under Michael Newman and Fred Hand, and with sponsorship from the Augustine Guitar Scholarship Fund he earned a doctoral degree from Manhattan School of Music as a student of David Leisner. Luiz is the head of the guitar department at the State University of New York-Purchase, and also teaches guitar at CUNY-Hunter College and New Jersey City University.

Booklet notes by João Luiz

The past ten years for the Brasil Guitar Duo have included intense work on projects featuring the complete music for two guitars of Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Leo Brouwer, one album dedicated exclusively to the music of J.S. Bach, and another to the music of the great Brazilian composer Edu Lobo. Now, the Brasil Guitar Duo celebrates its 20th anniversary with an album revisiting the recital format, which weaves together composers from different periods and styles, forming the Duo’s trademark mixed program. Contrary to what our ensemble name suggests, we as a duo came relatively late to Brazilian music. Before that, we spent eight years meticulously studying the traditional core repertoire for two guitars: the transcriptions of Renaissance music, the keyboard works of the baroque era, arrangements of Spanish music by Albéniz and Granados, and original duets by Sor, Carulli and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Despite the Duo’s initial preference (or sense of duty) for the traditional repertoire, Douglas, who has been composing music since he was a kid, introduced me to his first pieces for two guitars during our very first meetings, and I, as the arranger of the Duo, explored a wide range of possibilities for adapting music from other instruments. Our first CD, from 2000, features Douglas’s compositions, my own arrangements, and other compositions ranging from the Baroque to the 20th century, in a format very similar to that of the present CD. One could say that after all these years we have come full circle, except for the fact that this CD also presents music written by others for the Duo, which makes us very proud.

Ghosting celebrates both our maturities as arrangers/composers and the important achievement of premiering works dedicated to the Brasil Guitar Duo, which thus expands the repertoire of music for two guitars, as the great duos before us did.

Unlike the keyboard music of J.S. Bach, Jean-Philippe Rameau’s keyboard music could fit almost entirely on two guitars. Bach’s Toccatas for solo harpsichord, for instance, have very idiomatic keyboard writing, which presents many problems when adapted for two guitars. Rameau’s music is as idiomatic for the keyboard as Bach’s, and sometimes highly challenging too, but when transcribed for two guitars it loses no character, and in terms of playability it actually sounds as if it were meant for the guitar. Another contributing factor to the Duo’s successful interpretation of Baroque music is Douglas’ seven-string guitar, which has an extra bass string that expands both the range of the instrument and my possibilities for arrangement. Les Cyclopes is one of the many great pièces de caractère from Rameau’s 1724 Pièces de Clavecin. In terms of form, most of Rameau’s pieces in this collection are in Rondo and Binary (A-B). In Les Cyclopes, there are traces of the Rondo form but the structure of da capo suits this piece better. There may be an influence of Lully’s Persée, where four Cyclopes appear in the Opera, having a Gavotte as their dance.

The Gavotte with 6 Doubles is from Rameau’s third book Nouvelles Suites de Pièces de Clavecin (New Suites of Pieces for Harpsichord), in which the doubles are variations on the Gavotte. There is a very close connection between the Gavotte (theme) and the French lute style, both sharing a luxurious ornamentation. On my arrangement I tried to avoid the literal transcription, where one guitar does the left hand and the other the right. I found it more interesting for the ensemble to share a scale passage between the two guitars, and to split 16th notes on virtuosic passages, thereby emphasizing the batteries of Rameau’s keyboard style.

3-9. SUITE Op. 142
Polish composer Gerard Drozd has collaborated with the Brasil Guitar Duo since 2011. Drozd’s very personal style demonstrates his admiration for polyphony and sophisticated harmonies. As part of his creative process, he has developed what he calls “kaleidoscopic harmony,” which is a prominent feature in all his music. After hearing the Duo’s performance of his Triptych Op. 69 in Poland, Drozd felt inspired to write a new piece for us. In the words of the composer:

“…Written and dedicated to the excellent Brasil Guitar Duo, my Suite Op. 142 consists of seven parts and is a kind of music that can describe different moods, places, human characters, etc. There is no need to talk about each movement separately. I leave it to all the listeners of this CD and believe in their inner or innate sensitivity and imagination.”

10. PRELÚDIO from Bachianas Brasileiras n. 4
The solo guitar works of Heitor Villa-Lobos, especially his 12 Études, are undoubtedly the hallmark of our instrument’s repertoire in the first half of the twentieth century. A prolific composer who wrote extensively for the guitar, and was an accomplished guitarist himself, Villa-Lobos did not write a single piece for two guitars. Nowadays it is very common to arrange some of his string quartets and piano music for guitar ensembles. Villa-Lobos’s piano writing is very idiomatic, but in pieces like the Prelúdio from Bachianas Brasileiras n. 4, the musical material is so transparent and well presented that its transcription for two guitars is remarkably organic. It even stays in the same key as the piano. The series of nine Bachianas Brasileiras, written by Villa-Lobos during the years 1930-1945 for different instrumental combinations (including voices) combines formal structures from the Baroque (with some of the movements named Gigue, Toccata, and Fugue) with the melodic and rhythmic inventiveness that can be found in the vast Brazilian folklore. Bachianas Brasileiras n. 4 was completed in 1941 for piano, and later orchestrated for string orchestra by the composer. Of special interest is the theme of the Prelúdio, which transposes, from C minor to B minor, the first six notes of Bach’s theme of the Musical Offering.

All of Douglas Lora’s compositions for the guitar share a very consistent formal structure and an inspired melodic content, in which the melodies are typically improvised by the composer and later developed according to the particular character of each composition. From the time we started playing as a duo, it was clear that Douglas would became one of Brazil’s finest young composers for the guitar. His style is very personal, and despite his formal studies in composition, his music does not try to copy other models. Although very inspired by the dances and popular music of Brazil, Lora’s music does not sound “Brazilian” at first. Instead, the beauty and sadness of its melodies remind us of our Portuguese heritage in the Fados, as well as the melancholic Brazilian waltzes of the early 20th century. The Posludio (Postlude) is a lively dance in 6/8 in the style of the Vals Venezolano or Vals Criollo (very popular in South America) but more elaborate in counterpoint, presenting some challenging moments for both players. We can say that the real roots of this composition are in the Brazilian chôro melodies. Meaning “cry” in Portuguese, chôro is Brazil’s most authentic genre of instrumental music, sometimes compared to American jazz music due to the structure of multiple instruments playing solos and improvising together. The original chôro ensemble (Regional) features both six- and sevenstring guitars, mandolin, flute, cavaquinho, and Brazilian tambourine. Chôro is perhaps the musical genre that most influences Brazilian composers and instrumentalists, and Douglas himself plays the seven-string guitar in chôro ensembles in Brazil. The Valsa (Waltz) was originally composed for guitar trio and later adapted for two guitars. Written in 5/4, which is very unusual for a waltz, both the melody and harmonic rhythm give the feel of the more common 3/4. The middle section is a canon; after a short development the first theme comes back.

The first of a series of portraits for various instrumental combinations, Djavan’s Portrait (2006-2009) is based on a theme by Djavan Caetano Viana (b. 1949), the great Brazilian guitarist, singer and songwriter known for the sophisticated quality of his songs and interpretations. Djavan was an important influence during my early years, and I credit him with my ability to understand harmony in popular music. The main idea of this piece came after a dream I had, in which I met Djavan in a lounge and played and talked about music with him. I use his song Maria das Mercedes (originally a samba), developing its theme in this piece with a different meter, 7/8. I wanted to create a kind of lounge samba with influences of rock, jazz, and Bartók. The form of the piece is introduction, Djavan’s theme modified, development with a free fugue in the middle section, variation (improvisation), and main theme.

14. 7 ANÉIS
Brazilian composer and multi-instrumentalist Egberto Gismonti is recognized as one of the leading musicians in Brazil today. He has written music for ballet, orchestra, and chamber ensembles, numerous soundtracks, and a considerable amount of piano works. He has recorded dozens of albums for the label ECM and his music has been performed all over the world. He began his piano studies at the age of six, and after studying classical music for fifteen years, he won a scholarship to study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Jean Barraqué, a disciple of Schoenberg and Webern. Returning to Brazil, he started playing the six-string classical guitar, and by the early 1970s he was playing the eight- and the thirteen-string guitar, taking his music to a higher conceptual level. Gismonti is a true master of polyrhythm. He very naturally juxtaposes intricate Brazilian rhythms while also creating the most beautiful melodies.

Since the Duo’s inception twenty years ago, Douglas and I always wanted to play Gismonti’s music. However, he did not write many pieces for two guitars. I took on the task of arranging Gismonti’s piano music for two guitars, and the composer himself was very kind to mentor me through the process, always offering advice, correcting passages, and coaching the Duo on the interpretation of his music. 7 Anéis is a modern chôro originally written for piano. The first recording of 7 Anéis appears on Gismonti’s LP Feixe de Luz (1988), with the composer on the synthesizer. The version on which I based my arrangement is also a Gismonti recording, but from his later album Infância (1994), which features the composer himself on the piano joined by cello, double bass, and synthesizer. In the version for two guitars, we aim to capture the contrapuntal characteristics and dialogue between two guitars (the left and right hand of the pianist) that are the essence of the chôro, as well as Gismonti’s personal treatment of different textures and rhythms. Often an audience favorite, 7 Anéis is a powerful piece that almost always results in a standing ovation in concerts!

The piece that gives the CD its name was composed by our great friend and teacher, David Leisner. One of the greatest American guitarists of his generation, Leisner has a very impressive discography as a soloist, composer, and chamber musician. Douglas and I were thrilled to have this piece dedicated to us, and believe it is a great addition to the guitar duo repertoire. Ghosting was commissioned by New York’s Symphony Space especially for the Brasil Guitar Duo in 2014, and we premiered the piece that same year. In one of our many encounters, Leisner talked about his later style:

“During the first decade of the new century, my former style, which was concerned with tonality, simplicity and an emotional landscape, and dealt with my popular music roots, gave way to something closer to the minimalist tradition, more about nature and the spiritual landscape, slowly evolving musical concepts and often traveled further from tonality. Ghosting is a meeting of the two styles.”

And he continues about Ghosting:

“Its compositional seed was sprouted with some spare musical ideas and a little haiku-like poem of my devising":

the air holds us

presence into

absence, ghosting


The work begins and ends with harmonics floating freely, as if tossed about by a capricious wind. A simple tune in subtly shifting meters becomes the ground for variations that begin rather quietly and become increasingly lively. This leads to a brief, but spacious chordal passage that sounds perhaps like a distant carillon, followed by the original tune fragmented, then turning into a little chorale with harmonics, that leads to a return of the opening material, now a little more spectral.”

The idea of ending this CD with Bate-Coxa was intentional. For several years this has been the piece that also ends our recitals, one of the Duo’s signature pieces that produces an outstanding response from the audience. It does not get better than this — a Brazilian Duo playing the most Brazilian of all Brazilian pieces. As Brazilian guitarists, we feel very lucky to have such giants as Bellinati, Gismonti, and Marco Pereira writing for us. Our friendship with Marco goes back fifteen years, from the memorable experience and honor we had of joining him on his recording.

Marco is a force of nature, who combines impeccable performance and a knowledge of improvisation that is second to none. Of equal importance is his work as a scholar, promoting the diversity of Brazilian rhythms. Through his teaching he assures the continuation of this great tradition of popular music. Bate-Coxa is one of Pereira’s greatest hits for solo guitar, adapted by the composer for two guitars especially for the Brasil Guitar Duo. The piece uses the Brazilian rhythm called Côco, which in English means coconut. According to Pereira, the Côco is a northeastern rhythm with African, Portuguese, and native Indian influences. It is not known what particular state the rhythm comes from, but the Côco is nowadays widely cultivated in the southeast cities of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. In terms of performance practice, knowing the role of the percussion instruments in a real Côco performance (with only percussion and singers) will help guitarists to master the many intricacies of this piece, beginning with the unorthodox texture of the introduction, which combines right hand strokes between thumb and index finger on the same string with muted chords on the left hand.



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