Tango in Wisconsin: Brasil guitar duo brings global sound to campus

Mark Hirsch

The Brasil Guitar Duo, Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora, made clear the way talented individuals can achieve an impressive level of group musicianship at their concert last Wednesday night in Harper Hall.
Their now 15-year collaboration began in Sao Paulo, Brazil when they were teenage guitar students and has developed into their seemingly effortless performing duo.
As they played last Wednesday night, there was a sense of unity that, at times, sounded nothing like a “duet” at all. Rather, upon closing one’s eyes, the sonic output seemed to be coming from one virtuosic guitarist.
Watching their warm-up before the concert, I witnessed a passage in which they split groups of consecutive 16th notes between each other at an unruly speed with incredible precision. At the end of the section, the duo misread the awe on my face, telling me, “Don’t worry, we’ll take it faster in the concert.”
The duo covered a wide range of musical ground in their choice of repertoire. True to their name and heritage, they performed multiple pieces from their native Brazilian musical landscape, including original works by Lora and transcriptions and arrangements by Luiz.
The duo also performed pieces from the “classical” canon, including works by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and Claude Debussy, further exemplifying their overarching level of musicianship.
Their ability to transition from the style associated with Brazilian Choro, a style marked by fast tempos, leaping melodies and sense of improvisation, to the more linear and well-tempered style of the classical works was seamless.
Both players were able to push the limits of expression and technical ability. Volume control is not something easy to manipulate on the guitar, but the duo was able to reach the upper dynamic range without ever creating the harsh tones that often occur when the guitar is played at maximum volume. Their softer moments, which also tend to cause problems on the guitar, were equally notable.
Greeting the immediate standing ovation, the duo concluded the evening with a fiery tango by renowned tango composer Astor Piazzolla, solidifying the impression that there is indeed no style of music that these B