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Hungarian Twins Play Classical Guitar

SBMA Presents Katona Guitar Duo

Peter and Zolt¡n Katona played a wide-ranging program in SBMA's chamber music series.
Paul Wellman

It’s an odd image at first: two men, black-clad from head to toe, looking little more than half their 40 years, each holding a guitar, both swaying arhythmically in their chairs as they play. While genetically identical, the Katona twins, Peter and Zolt¡n, do have a distinguishing difference between them: one’s hair is floppier than the other’s. But in all other respects, it’s no easy task for the audience to tell who is who. This holds especially true with their formidable guitar skills. For all the listener knows, one brother may well work the strings better than the other, but they’re both such masters that the only appropriate response is to feel lucky to see and hear double the excellence.

Alumni of Budapest’s Bela Bart³k Conservatory of Music, the Hungarian brothers, known to their fans simply as “Katona,” played the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s delightfully intimate-and here “intimate” is praise, not euphemism-Mary Craig Auditorium for the second time Tuesday night.

Between pieces, Peter and Zolt¡n traded off the job of introducing the next number in that disarmingly humble manner that many Eastern European classical musicians, no matter how well-known, seem to have. After telling the tale of a work being adapted to the guitar from the harpsichord, say, or the composer’s possibly apocryphal narrow escape from a tribe of cannibals, they sounded earnest in their wish that the listeners enjoy it.

Spanning over three centuries and no fewer than five countries, the evening’s eclectic program included an astonishingly fast-fingered arrangement of the overture to Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito; an entertaining (if less than perfectly polished) rendition of the universally recognizable overture to Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia; Villa-Lobos’s haunting, and at times slightly goofy, Alma Brasileira; and the contemporary Canadian composer Derek Charke’s Time’s Passing Breath, a piece layering the dual guitars atop a prerecorded bed of crystalline bells, their rings electronically stretched and skewed nearly beyond recognition. If such a diverse, enticing sample is representative of their repertoire, it would be surprising indeed if any audience member left without wanting to hear what other musical surprises the brothers Katona have up their black sleeves.

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