Katona Twins

Concert date: 21 February 2014
Reviewed by: JRC

Nadsa's Katona Twins guitar concert got off to a good start before a note was played. More chairs had to be put out for a near capacity crowd.

All the programme's items [except that by Barrios and Rodrigo] had been arranged by the Katona Twins: and how, I wondered, would they cope with drum rolls at the beginning of Rossini's Overture 'The Thieving Magpie'? No problem. Guitars of course are good resonating boxes, so produced an arresting introduction. But then I was searching for an orchestra in my head, whilst two guitarists were playing on stage. It was after a dramatic pause that the magpies came to life and darted from speedy pianissimos to exuberant fortes.

J S Bach's English Suite No. 3 for harpsichord was the next work, with its seven very differing movements. The Katona's prelude was spirited; however, it was the following allemande, of more relaxed tempo, that suddenly sharpened the senses. We were listening to guitars, though, with the strings being plucked, how similar to a harpsichord the sound was. After a lively courante, the sedate saraband gave us the time to appreciate the subtleties of Bach's phrasing and accenting that was being so brilliantly displayed by these two guitarists. Bach's works are no strangers to adaptation: this was one of the best I've heard.

Another change of style was the solo piece, Vals No3, by the Paraguayan composer A. Barrios. Written for the guitar, this piece is richly melodic and Hispanic.

Having musically arrived in the guitar's heartland, 'Cordoba' and 'Asturias' by Albeniz [the Spanish composer of 'nationalistic' music] maintained the Iberian pulse. The Moorish influences of Cordoba were hauntingly portrayed, whilst the inappropriately named 'Asturias' had sections of speed, drama and percussive effects reminiscent of modern flamenco.

Returning after the interval to a Katona arrangement of Handel's Chaconne in G was a delight. Now it was easy to accept two guitars in place of one harpsichord: perhaps an improvement on the original.

The solo for guitar by Rodrigo, Invocacion y danza, was indeed a fitting tribute to Manuel de Falla.

Albeniz's 'Mallorca' then shifted our focus from Andalusia to softer lilting melodies that showcased the ability of the Twins to be playing as one.

Excerpts from De Falla's El Amor Brujo were to bring the concert to a close in a variety of ways: a dramatic fanfare, a somewhat awkward Dance of Terror, a beautifully calm Magic Circle and a Pantomime of changing moods. The Ritual Fire Dance, so well known yet still evocative and mesmeric, would have ended the concert, but for the applause. We were treated to an encore, their arrangement of Scarlatti's Metamorphosis, which proved a dazzling finale.

Peter and Zoltan Katona, not only came to the concert with a glittering CV, they also presented us with a varied programme that both surprised and entertained us at the highest level. They have already played in the major concert halls around the globe; and this year sees them performing in Europe, South America and the far east. We are lucky that they now live in England: it will make it easier for us to catch them again.