On Valentine’s Day of 2012, Brazilian classical guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad displayed their instrumental prowess on the stage of the Lobero Theatre for their first CAMA Masterseries concert, and on Friday night the fraternal duo did just like it did eight years ago. With now 55 years of playing together professionally under their belts, the brothers from Sao Paulo showcased their perfectly synchronized fretwork as they effortlessly played through a set that mixed European and Brazilian classical pieces, the latter the focus of the concert’s second half.
The brothers greeted the mostly older audience when they took the stage shortly after 8:00 p.m. and opened things up with Italian composer Mauro Giuliani’s “Variazioni Concertanti, Op. 130,” which was stately and pretty in equal measure. Surprisingly for a classical music concert, Friday’s performance actually had some interaction between the performers and audience. While younger brother Odair stayed quiet for the entire show, Sergio addressed the crowd following the opening number to let them know which gray-haired brother was which.
“This is Odair, my younger brother,” he said as he gestured toward the junior Assad.
He also took the opportunity to introduce the second piece, Spanish composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s three-part “Tomadilla para dos guitarras,” and did likewise as the concert moved from one piece to another.
Sergio’s between-song conversations with the audience added a welcome variety to the concert that helped sustain interest, but his and Odair’s finger and fretwork included so many varied techniques that the duo could have stayed mute and commanded the audience. From muted chords, aggressive Latin strumming, ringing harmonics, to rhythmic tapping on their guitars’ bodies, the brothers showed that their instrumental arsenal had no shortage of unusual sounds. As they unleashed one guitar trick after another while working their way up and down the fretboard, some in the audience couldn’t help but audibly respond.
During a few pieces, some crowd members sitting near this reviewer let out expressions of “wow” as the brothers concluded the songs with abrupt strums followed by upward gesticulations with their strumming hands.
Following a short intermission, Sergio and Odair kicked off the more Brazilian half of their concert with famed composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Alma Brazileira.” In an interview with the News-Press for a Feb. 7 preview story, Sergio complimented his brother’s technical ability on guitar, which he stated allowed him to write very fast guitar lines for the concert’s final piece, his original composition “Suite Brasileira.”
“He’s such a virtuoso and he can play all these crazy lines that I write,” Sergio said.
While there were several points during the concert that the brothers’ weaving guitar lines blended in a way that made it hard to tell who was playing what, Odair’s guitar playing on the final piece was just as technically brilliant as his brother suggested. Sergio described it as “a million notes a minute.”
Although Sergio was no slouch on the guitar and performed a tasteful mix of rhythm and lead parts, Odair proved to be the most prominent guitarist during the concert’s second half and made the same people who said “wow” in the first half say so again.
This continued into the concert’s encore, a two-minute song which Sergio called a “soul piece.” Just five seconds into the encore, someone in the audience whistled at the speed of Odair’s playing. Needless to say, the duo departed the stage while receiving an enthusiastic round of applause.