Barbosa-Lima relies on sound, not look Music review

September 24, 1997|By Larry Harris | Larry Harris,SUN STAFF

Carlos Barbosa-Lima violates all the traditional standards of a classical concert guitarist in dress, posture and choice of program.

He appeared Saturday night at Catonsville Community College in an open-collared long-sleeved shirt and loafers. He slumped over his guitar in a most casual way, and his choice of music was about as far from the somber classical menu as possible.

But it is doubtful that a tuxedo and rigid back could have evoked more beautiful voices, colors and rhythm lines. The purists may have been offended, but there were few toes not tapping by the conclusion of the opening concert in the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society's 1997-1998 series.

At one point in his career, the 52-year-old Brazilian native adhered closely to the classical scheme of things, but somewhere along the line his love of South American folk and popular music began to creep into his performances. Now, as he freely admits, concerts like the one Saturday night are carefully planned to illustrate the many styles of music in which he is

fluent, whether it be Debussy, Jobim or Gershwin.

One of the most versatile performers in the field, Barbosa-Lima is particularly adept at the intricate rhythms of South American composers Ernesto Nazareth, Heitor Villa-Lobos and Agustin Mangore Barrios. His ability to keep a resonant bass line running through the various sambas and tangos is dazzling. His concluding piece -- the always-popular "Brazil" -- sounded as if the slightly built, bespectacled virtuoso had transformed himself into an entire orchestra.

Now living in Puerto Rico, Barbosa-Lima is involved in many projects. In addition to touring constantly, he is a prolific transcriber and publisher of South American compositions and a frequent spokesman for the guitar's usefulness in all walks of music.

"The tradition of the classical guitar is a good musical foundation for guitarists, but it must integrate with inventive, complex styles developed in the music of other cultures where the guitar is prominent," he has written. "This kind of healthy attitude will help one to avoid any false elitism which could destroy the magic of the instrument."

Saturday night's appreciative audience would add a hearty amen.

Pub Date: 9/24/97

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