Musical instruments present a peculiar phenomenon, that of the character of inanimate objects. Of all the arts, only music seems to have developed personalities around its tools. Admittedly, there are distinctions in the other arts -- novels versus poetry, canvas versus sculpture, and so on -- but equally abundant in the field of music are the myriad of analogous abstract procedures. The tools of sound production are somehow more tangibly associative.
Saturday evening's concert given by the guitar duo of Michael Andriaccio and Joanne Castellani at Elmwood Unitarian Church was illuminating in this regard. Of all the conventional instruments of European descent, the guitar is probably the most intrinsically reflective of its background. The guitar seems to have an almost inescapable proximity to the romantic image of Andalusian girls near the Moorish wall.
The point of all this is that the personality of instruments is more than mere association, they have had an undeniable hand in the formation of the regions and genres with which they are associated. Spain would not be Spain without the guitar, as the guitar would not be the guitar without Spain.
The concert, as you may have guessed, presented a portrait of the guitar in its best predominantly Iberian light. The Andriaccio-Castellani Duo does more than justice to the instrument and the repertoire, paying homage to its natural character through a complete mastery of the huge variety of technical devices available to them.
The program included the world premiere of a work by Stephen Funk Pearson entitled "Chung Mung", which is Chinese for "good luck." Here the music was alternately languid, quirky and frenzied in a vocabulary which relied fairly heavily on recent jazz trends. The performance was probably as close to definitive as world premieres ever get. Also given was the American premiere of Jorge Morel's "Fantasia de la Danza", a work cast in the Spanish vein by a Spanish composer.
David Leisner's "Mirage" from 1988 was a bit on the innocuous side, almost verging on "new age" at times though relying on a slightly Renaissance-tinged approach to harmony and counterpoint. Particularly beautiful was the use of harmonics at pivotal moments in the composition.
The remainder of the program featured works by Bach, Brouwer, Albeniz, and Granados. Bach's "English Suite No. 3" sounded transformed and revitalized as played by these guitarists. The other works, all of a Spanish cast, were masterful compositions for the guitar duo which clearly evidenced the close relationship which these composers had with the instrument. The performances were all magnificent examples of what the guitar does best.
The Castelanni-Andriaccio Duo bring a wonderfully articulate sensitivity to everything they play. But more importantly, they affirm through their musicianship that the guitar is truly a wonderful instrument, always maintaining its unique personality.