The Sonata Canonica, Op. 196, by the prolific Italian-American composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, has opened many a duo-guitar recital. It's a pleasant neo-classic romp that's over in 10 minutes, with the lively use of counterpoint implied by the title. Not so common, or so easily programmed, is another Castelnuovo-Tedesco work from the early '60s, Les Guitares Bien Tempérées, Op. 199, a set of 24 preludes and fugues for two guitars, inspired by Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Castelnuovo-Tedesco's preludes and fugues, unlike other sets written in homage to Bach, are arranged not in scalar sequence but in minor-major pairs a fifth apart, beginning with G minor and ending with C major. They're also exceptional in that they can be classified as light music. The dominant spirit is playfulness, and this emerges most of all, oddly enough, in the fugues. Each one has something unexpected. Perhaps a long, complex theme will be recovered piecemeal for its subsequent appearances, or perhaps it will be derived, seemingly impossibly, from that of its corresponding prelude. The preludes itself are quite a varied lot, with effects such as flamenco rhythms and harmonics introduced in an unobtrusive way. There is logic to the whole set, but individual pieces could be included on any recital tracing Bach's influence and would contribute something unusual to it. The performance by the youthful Brasil Guitar Duo is clean and sensitive to the fun of the music, and the engineers avoid putting the listener too close to the players in the live environment of suburban Toronto's St. John Chrysostom Church. A pleasant guitar release that will insinuate itself into your playpile.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Sonatina canonica, for 2 guitars, Op. 196|
|Les Guitares bien tempérées (Well-tempered guitars), preludes & fugues (24) for 2 guitars, Op. 199|