Guitarist Alessandro Penezzi and clarinetist Alexandre Ribeiro paired up for an unforgettable musical performance on Thursday night.
The two entered the Simons Center Recital Hall smiling; their good humor was evident even from the warm-up.

The first song began slow, soft, and lilting, then moved to more fast and frenetic — like a rush of breath. Both players’ hands were loose and lithe and their conversation of instruments was easy and fun. It was clear that the two were having a good time, and we just happened to be lucky enough to be privy to their camaraderie. 

Many of the songs are examples of choro, a popular style of Brazilian music that often has a fast and joyful tone and features a combination of improvisation, counterpoint, and syncopation.

The second song, like many of the ones they played, was composed by Penezzi himself. It was breezy, like a sauntering walk in the park on a lazy spring day in Brazil (or in Charleston, before the deluge came). The musicians’ range and virtuosity is stunning.

Penezzi spoke after the first song. He apologized for his English and explained, best he could, the two previous songs and told us that the third was about wind.  This third song began with Ribeiro’s purposefully stuttering clarinet — in the very beginning there was no sound except for the blowing of wind through the instrument. The song is like the fluttering of leaves. At times, their combined playing was synchronized; at times they were in counterpoint. The quick pace was balanced by subdued moments of calm after the flutter of leaves.

The fourth song was a  waltz for Penezzi’s four-year-old daughter Elena. In English the song’s title is “Come Here, Elena.” It was very soft, like a tucked-in feather blanket or a goodnight kiss on the cheek. And yet there was a trace of sadness, perhaps in the knowledge of fleeting childhood.

Another enchanting song was reminiscent of music from a feel-good foreign film full of adventures ahead. In it Penezzi slapped his guitar for extra rhythm. Ribeiro kissed his clarinet at the end. Audience members were appropriately impressed and charmed by their humor, particularly toward the end when Penezzi (who’d been doing most of the talking) insisted Ribeiro take the microphone and say a few words in English. At first Ribeiro protested, but (at the audience’s insistence), he said, “Good evening.  Great pleasure to be here,” and, as he was becoming frustrated with our language: “Let’s go play, please.”

And play they did, because of course their impressive, hypnotic music transcends language. The songs held the audience spellbound.  The music reminded us of the sorrows and joys of life, of its new vistas — making space for new avenues of experience.

The audience loved them. They received a standing ovation, and before their encore piece, Penezzi graciously thanked the audience, the sound and light crew, sponsors, and everyone from Spoleto who made it possible for them to share their music.

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