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Assad Brothers Bring Brazil To Savannah

Compositions for classical guitar duo are few and far between, but Brazilian guitarists Sergio and Odair Assad treat that as an opportunity, not an obstacle. When the brothers find music they like, they rework it for guitar. This year at the Savannah Music Festival, they played several of their own arrangements, in an imaginative program that showcased music from their homeland, along with nods to Spain and Argentina, and an original composition inspired by the side of their family with Lebanese roots.

Sergio and Odair Assad are each accomplished solo guitarists. But when they join together, they achieve a kind of musical symmetry that's rarely heard. After more than 40 years performing, touring and recording together, the brothers can practically finish each other's musical sentences, and though they're four years apart, they almost look like twins.

As the Assads' reputation as the world's leading guitar duo grew, so did their repertoire, which now spans a wide range of cultures, periods and genres. They've collaborated with opera singers, minimalist composers and folk musicians. But for this Savannah recital, they concentrated on music from Brazil, itself a country of widely divergent styles.

Brazil And Beyond

Brazil has its own musical founders and innovators. The Assads paid homage to two of these by way of composer Radames Gnattali. His "Valsa" pays tribute to Ernesto Nazareth, sometimes referred to as the Brazilian Scott Joplin. The music has a slow, sensual groove that the brothers exploit to the fullest, pushing and pulling the tempo but never losing the rhythmic force behind it. And "Corta Jaca" pays homage to Chiquinha Gonzaga, the first recognized woman composer in Brazil.

When the Assads began researching their own ancestry several years ago, they got a surprise: A good 25 percent of their family, they say, comes from Lebanon. That inspired Sergio to write Tahhiyya li Ossoulina, which won a Latin Grammy in 2008. Harmonically, it's based on Middle Eastern modes, but the driving rhythms in the second section give it a distinctly Brazilian flair. It's a good end to a program that flaunts the diversity of Latin American classical guitar music and the ingenuity and artistry of two brothers from Brazil.


  • Isaac Albeniz: Cordoba
  • Astor Piazzolla: Suite Troileana: "Bandoneon," "Zita"
  • Heitor Villa-Lobos: A Lenda do Caboclo
  • Radames Gnattali:"Valsa," "Corta Jaca"
  • Antonio Carlos Jobim"Amparo," "Stone Flower"
  • Egberto Gismonti: "Palhaco"
  • Sergio Assad: "Tahhiyya li Ossoulina"
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