Assads And Avital Astonish

Avi Avital, Sérgio and Odair Assad
The Boston Musical Intelligencer

Sparks flew Saturday night as brilliant Brazilian brother guitarists Sérgio and Odair Assad partnered with Israeli mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital in a spectacular concert sponsored by Boston Celebrity Series at Jordan Hall.

A long time ago, I worked for a large corporation as its Marketing Communications Manager. I departed from my Las Vegas trade show toil and found myself barreling down I-40 eastbound near midnight on a lonely, gusty and snowy route to Albuquerque. I found a faint FM radio signal from the NPR outlet there which was broadcasting some guitar music so utterly enthralling and virtuosic that I pulled into the nearest truck stop, put some money into a pay phone, and called the station to find out who was the guitar wizard I was hearing. Well it wasn’t one player, it was two, and they were the Assad brothers, who had recently recorded their first CD for Nonesuch. First thing when I returned to Cambridge I went to The Coop, bought the CD, and have been an enthusiastic Assad Brothers fan ever since.

Many years later, the Boston Early Music Festival brought the admirable Venice Baroque Orchestra to Cambridge for a remarkable program at 1st Church in Cambridge at which the orchestra’s guest—a mandolin virtuoso named Avi Avital—played Vivaldi, amongst others, and blew the roof off the room! 

So, when Boston Celebrity Series announced a joint concert with Avital and the Assad brothers, there was no holding me back. And, to judge from the almost full Jordan Hall on Saturday, many others felt so moved.  We were not disappointed.

The wide-ranging program opened with J.S. Bach and Joseph Haydn—selections from Bach’s Sonata in E Major for Violin and Keyboard BWV 1016 and the complete Haydn Sonata No. 50 for Piano in D Major, Hob. XVI:37. They were both, as were many of the other works on the program, very skilled arrangements by Sérgio Assad. The three Bach excerpts flowed mellifluously—a soft filigree of delicate lace came to mind. The Haydn sacrificed nothing for energy and flair. As with all of the works we heard Saturday night, hardly a whit of effort was visible or audible amongst these three virtuosi no matter what the technical challenge, though once in a great while a plucked or strummed string might not have spoken quite as the player might have wished. 

Read the rest of the review here