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The Brazilian Guitar Quartet is a unique musical group… What does it sound like? In a word, it is magnificent. In this recording they take on Albéniz’ masterpiece Iberia. The extra pitch ranges at the bottom and top mean there is no compromise because of crowding the music into the available octaves of the standard guitar, and the tone colors, of which pianists can only dream, can be exploited with beautiful effect… The quartet members are effortlessly virtuosic on their parts, preternaturally unified, have gorgeous arrangements of the score, and deliver an outstanding interpretation… It must suffice to say that each of the twelve movements has never sounded better to this listener.
SOUNDBOARD, on the CD Suite Iberia
They play together like a dream… an evening of nonstop virtuosity.
GUITAR ARRANGEMENT SURPASSES THE ORIGINAL (Headline.) A copy tends to be weaker and less substantial than the real McCoy. Details fall by the wayside; nuances wash out. Worse case: the copy is merely an anemic imitation of the original. Yet Tuesday night, an arrangement became the star attraction. Details weren’t lost, they were amplified. And in this one rare instance, I’ll concede that the arrangement had a stronger effect than the original… It was an exceptional opener for the Flagler Museum Music Series. It boasted a program of near-symphonic scope with composers long associated with the guitar repertoire: Bach, Villa-Lobos and Albéniz… Their give-and-take always allowed important details to surface. The ebb and flow between the four men also was fascinating to watch.
The Brazilians played with one mind, without losing the central pulse, and conveyed all the mystery, joy, passion and pride in this music… this was magical music making.
Plus the sensitivity of the quartet’s playing is excellent, from the glowing thoughtfulness of the “Evocación” to the accentuated yet elegant dance of “Málaga” and the fragile curlicues of “Jerez.” The recording picks up all the details of the different guitarists’ sound, but there is still a greater sense of the ensemble as a whole rather than individual performers. This version of Iberia is as warm and transcendentally evocative as Albéniz could have wished for.
ALLMUSIC.COM, on the CD Suite Iberia
The Brazilian Guitar Quartet displayed their impeccable musicianship in their fastidiously shaped interpretation… Bachianas Brasileiras No. 1 by fellow Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos was pure inspiration. The arching melody in the middle movement was typical of Villa-Lobos’ seductive songs. The outer movements oozed inventive variety. The piece also produced the Brazilian Guitar Quartet’s best playing – attentive, respectful, authoritative and irresistibly musical.
Everything came together beautifully: the ensemble was tight, the contrapuntal interplay was crisp, and the closing Badinerie was as lively as one could want. Villa-Lobos’s “Bachianas Brasileiras No.1″ pays tribute toBach by combining elements of his style (counterpoint in particular) with a style in which disparate elements-American jazz, French Impressionism, African rhythmic impulses-are melded into a distinctively Brazilian sound. This Brazilian accent has both a sunny and a meditative side, each of which was heard to fine effect in Ronaldo Miranda’s “Variações Sérias” (1991) and Camargo Guarnieri’s “Ponteio No. 24.” The more heavily folkloric roots of Brazilian music were heard in… the “Dança Negra” and the “Dança Brasileira.” And to close its program, the group offered a glimpse of European Romanticism as filtered through a painterly Brazilian sensibility in the Sonata in D (1894) by Antônio Carlos Gomes. The quartet played… engagingly and with a virtuosic flair.
Confident masters of technique, the members of the Brazilian Guitar Quartet showed they are also brilliant musicians during a performance presented by the Dumbarton Concert Series Saturday evening.
A world-class degree of precision, near-perfect balance and sensitive musicality… their performance of [Bach's] Suite No. 3 on Sunday was swift-paced, quietly rollicking and irresistibly driving.
Throughout the evening, the players exhibited an almost telepathic coordination… the enthusiastic audience was rewarded with two substantial encores.
Strong rhythmic articulation and clarity… creates much excitement… leave(s) the listener smiling.
AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, on the CD Essência do Brasil
Of all the anniversary albums paying homage to Bach this year via unusual transcriptions… this disc offers some of the most unlikely yet consistently delightful listening… [The BGQ] makes the Suites sound as if they were meant for this arrangement all along, with the players bringing out not only the rich counterpoint but the vibrant color of the works… the ever-popular Air of the Suite No. 3 moves with a grace both limpid and lapidary. A wonderful record.
BILLBOARD, on the CD Bach Four Suites for Orchestra
The Brazilian Guitar Quartet’s début U.S. appearance at the Kravis Center was a delight to those who appreciate the art of the guitar… agile performances… seamless harmony… The resonance of the four guitars… brought a depth to Bach’s compositions that the composer himself would have appreciated… The folk themes [of Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras No.1] were carried with a warmth hard to achieve with other instruments.
BACH SPRINGS TO LIFE IN QUARTET’S HANDS (Headline.) If J.S. Bach could have heard the Brazilian Guitar Quartet Thursday evening, he no doubt would have approved… ringing tone, balance and superb technique… bright and rhythmic… each player brought a uniqueness to the sound, which made for a fascinating performance as the differences melded into one… The added high string on Paul Galbraith’s guitar has the most beautiful and unique timbre – somewhere between a mandolin and a harp. It was used throughout the evening to great effect… The audience, an assortment of young and old, seemed entranced by it all… The BGQ’s CD, Essência do Brasil, is available on Delos, as is a new recording to be released this summer containing the Bach transcriptions heard here. Both would be stellar additions to your collection.
BRAZILIAN QUARTET SHINES (Headline.) Dramatic flair… The men played with tenderness and an easy flexibility. Still, there were technical achievements to amaze… enchanting.
SUPERLATIVES HARDLY DO JUSTICE TO QUARTET (Headline.) If a single word could sum up the Brazilian Guitar Quartet’s concert… it would be “exquisite”. But even that superlative doesn’t begin to express the superb subtlety of the Brazilian ensemble… The Bach overture was a marvel of shimmering, airy structure in the quartet’s hands… [After this] it seemed impossible for the quartet to surpass-or even match-itself. But it did, magnificently and more muscularly, in Heitor Villa-Lobos’s soaring Bachianas Brasileiras No.1… The quartet shifted seamlessly from notes that evoked shadowy exoticism to passages that captured the pulse of the Latin civilization, dancing in sunshine… Camargo Guarnieri’s colorful Quarteto No.2 showcased the quartet’s remarkable ability to blend their strings into a single, passionate voice… Two quicksilver works by Francisco Mignone… explored new aspects of the absolutely atmospheric world of the Brazilian quartet and underlined their essential brilliance… the audience wouldn’t let them go; standing ovations brought them back to the stage for two encores.
BRAZILIAN QUARTET WARMS, DAZZLES… (Headline.) After a stunning two-hour concert last night at the Alberta Bair Theater, theaudience’s blood was pumping enough for a double standing ovation. It was some of the most amazing live music I’ve ever heard… The audience lapped it up. They–we–were entranced… the music of the four guitars morphed into harpsichords, basses, oboes, lutes. But half the enjoyment of theconcert was watching the musicians’ fingers dance over the notes… Their speed was phenomenal… perfect senses of timing… jaw-dropping brilliance.
[Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras No.1"] was a revelation of ravishing beauty… [Miranda's "Serious Variations" showed] a stop-time mastery of ensemble togetherness… a standing ovation from the crowd demanded an encore.
No matter how seriously you take your music, you need to seek out more appetizing rarities, oddities and other charmers. One such find is “Encantamento,” a new disc by the Brazilian Guitar Quartet… Their varied and intriguing work here is infectiously likable… Grammy-nominated lead player Paul Galbraith sets the tone: smooth yet zesty. His three colleagues are real pros… spotless ensemble precision… gets better with repeated hearing.
It’s hard to imagine J.S. Bach played with more seductive beauty than in the Brazilian Guitar Quartet’s performance… the guitarists allowed Bach’s contrapuntal writing to emerge with buoyancy and clear, structural logic, while bathing this rigorous German score in the warmest Brazilian sunshine… such virtuosic gusto… the quartet’s rhythmic verve and finely calibrated ensemble work paid repeated dividends… Ronaldo Miranda’s “Variações S&eecute;rias” proved a warmly lyrical exercise in nostalgia, Francisco Mignone’s “Lundu” an ear-teasing, infectious miniature.
GUITAR QUARTET ENTHRALLS LOCAL FANS (Headline.) Not only did the quartet play as freely as its members joked with one another, but that freedom of expression was matched by a precision of technique and musicality and a decidedly spontaneous approach that left the audience wanting more and more… the guitarists still made each work sound as if it were written just for them… [and] they made each member of the audience feel as if each work was played just for him or her… [Their Bach] was nothing short of ear-opening… The last movement [of Bachianas Brasileiras], Fuga, especially gave all four players plenty of opportunity to flex their technical muscles as they chased each other around the score… inspired spontaneity… The two final pieces brought the program to a thrilling, guitar-thumping and rapid-fire finger-plucking close. But it didn’t bring the concert to a close. With the audience demanding more (some fans called out in Portuguese, which got even more smiles out of the guitarists), the quartet returned to the stage to play the rhythmically delightful “Dança Brasileira”… They played it so well that the audience jumped to its feet again. Nor would people stop clapping until the quartet returned to the stage once more with a melting rendition of [a Brazilian lullabye]. Accompanied by harmonics, lightly strummed chords and traces of delicate counterpoint, the sweet, simple melody passed from guitarist to guitarist until, after the last fading note fell into silence, the finally sated audience moved on into the cloudy night.
FULL HALL HEARS ARTICULATE, SYMPATHETIC GUITARISTS (Headline.) The hall was full of enthusiasts; indeed, the concert was delayed slightly because it took extra time to squeeze everyone into every seat… [the players were] articulate and sympathetic, coupled with the most extraordinary sonorities and striking ensemble.
Their acoustic-guitar wizardry came through loud and clear to an enraptured audience… they seemed to function as a single organism with eight hands and one mind. Intricate parts were performed with unerring accuracy as interweaving lines rippled from one player to the next… At times, the guitars took on harp-like, lute-like and pianistic timbres and intonations… there was genuine daring, excitement and abundant virtuosity… triumphantly spicy… several standing ovations and two encores.
Most North American classical music lovers are familiar with Heitor Villa-Lobos, but few are familiar with Brazil’s other composers of the 20th century. Providing a welcome introduction to those other figures is the new album “Encantamento” by the Brazilian Guitar Quartet… these pieces boast a melodic accessibility and rhythmic sensuality that often eludes northern hemisphere composers… [the BGQ] executes the lively, tricky rhythms of this music as only Brazilians could.
HOWARD COUNTY TIMES, on the CD Encantamento
In a refreshing change from string quartets and piano trios, the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City brought the Brazilian Guitar Quartet to Utah… The sound they produced was rich and full and the scope and range was symphonic… [Villa-Lobos's String Quartet no.12] was an excellent transcription that captured the depth of the music. The work is rather intense but lyrical and the ensemble gave a perceptive reading that brought out the bold expressiveness compellingly… They played lovely and heartfelt [Ronaldo Miranda's] “Serious Variations” with expressive accents that captured the different moods wonderfully and brought cohesiveness to the work as a whole… Their interpretation [of Albéniz's Suite Iberia] was exquisitely expressive and they conveyed the Spanish flavor of the music wonderfully. It was beautifully crafted and superbly articulated and executed.
The Brazilian Guitar Quartet played in an exhibition of guitar mastery that one rarely hears. Just plain “good” guitar playing doesn’t have a chance once you have experienced the excellence of those who know how to turn four guitars into a whole orchestra of varied sounds… this well-oiled guitar-machine delivered what this commentator deemed to be the musical acme of the afternoon [Bach's Orchestral suite no.3].
The Brazilian Guitar Quartet has done it again. Their warm, disciplined energy and mind-boggling technical prowess is directed this time at the music of Villa-Lobos. As always, their own arrangements are beautifully crafted. The two string quartets that are included (numbers 5 and 12) are done with the kind of taste and understanding that makes these players so completely convincing. An atmospheric wave of rhythm and color. Fabulous!
WGBH – BOSTON, on the CD Brazilian Guitar Quartet plays Villa-Lobos
The four guitarists play with an impeccable sense of ensemble, melody lines equally distributed, often traded back and forth seamlessly within a single piece… The following [J.S. Bach's] “Air” (on the G-string, so-called) retains its tranquil beauty and serenity. The following three dances were given non-stop with verve and animation, and superb musicianship.
There are a variety of infectious rhythms, some sweet and sad melodies, moments of modernist angularity, and transcendent beauty from one of Villa’s greatest chamber works… Another piece on this disc which stands out is Amaral’s adaptation of the Twelfth String Quartet, one of Villa’s greatest chamber works, a piece of great subtlety and power. This disc is very highly recommended!
THE VILLA-LOBOS MAGAZINE, on the CD Brazilian Guitar Quartet plays Villa-Lobos