Petite Duo, Review
April 4, 2004
By Deborah Kravetz, Sequenza 21

Chamber Music Now! presents the Scandinavian guitar duo, Duo con Forza in their US debut.  More than half the pieces on their program are world premieres, including two by Philadelphia composers Richard Belcastro and Allen Krantz.

Oriental by Enrique Granados and Danza del Molinero by Manuel de Falla pay tribute to the classics of the Spanish guitar tradition, and Williiam Lawes' Suite represents the Renaissance lute tradition, in an otherwise contemporary program.

Once past the quiet disjointed introduction, there is a muted minor melody in Richard Belcastro's Train of Thought, and like a train, it picks up speed and complexity as it traverses cultures from the classical toward blues harmonies and jazz rhythms.

Philadelphia guitarist Allen Krantz has transcribed his Short Symphony for Two Guitars and Orchestra for two solo guitars in this concert, and two of the movements are performed here.  The composer's experience makes this the most melodic and flowing of the works in this program, and draws clearly on the classical Spanish tradition in many phrases.

In his first piece composed for guitar, New York composer Drew Hemenger's Petite Duo exhibits both the softest and loudest possibilities of the acoustic guitar. Beginning with a single note that augments with each repetition, a phrase is built; inversions and rhythmic variations expand the theme.

The other five Swedish composers presented are difficult for me to distinguish; their notes are isolated, often discordant dis-chords, their phrases short and disjointed, and in many cases the results could have been improvised for all I could determine, whereas the American composers had more individual styles. I also think the Swedes have a weird sense of humor, since the last piece on the program involved applying various electrical appliances to the guitar strings, and culminated with mashing a cheesesteak sandwich against them. So much for Philadelphia's cross-cultural influence.