February 25, 2018 — 4 PM
The identical twins Peter and Zoltán Katona were born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1968, and began their musical education at the age of ten. As the Katona Twins they’ve put out nine CDs so far, covering a wide spectrum of music ranging from Mozart, Bach, and Scarlatti, to Queen, the Doors, and the Beatles They have deservedly become among the classical guitar world’s musical “must see” performers. They have been called “A symphony for two, Twin Peaks of Classical Music.”
Impromptu Classical Concerts thrills giant audience at St. Paul's with classical guitar duo, Katona Twins
By Raymond Baker

“Thrills” too strong a word? If you’d been there, at last Sunday afternoon’s concert by Katona Twins—two young Hungarian-born classical guitar virtuosos—you’d have shared in the excitement first-hand and could easily find thrills a perfect explanation for the near-capacity audience’s intense, enthusiastic response. The programming was brilliant. The players were prodigiously gifted. Even the two classical guitars in their arms were themselves an acoustic revelation.

Impromptu Concerts had long wanted to showcase a first-class classical guitar performance. But there were doubts. Could the more delicate sounds of a guitar travel successfully to the sides and distant back of St. Paul’s expansive floor space?

Katona Twins dispelled all doubts. With wireless connection to St. Paul’s many speakers both on its walls and in the altar area. With microphone pick-ups in the back pockets of the two performers. And a program rich in rhythm and melody, first-rate Spanish concert music already familiar in full orchestral garb – de Falla’s El Amor Brujo, songs and dances by Granados, Albéniz, Piazzolli. Plus Katona Twins’ artful treatments of modern, familiar tunes like the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby and Penny Lane, along with four selections from Bernstein’sWest Side Story, all inventively re-fashioned for two ceaselessly clever classical guitars.

The finger-and-hand work was astonishing, plucking, strumming, sliding, tapping guitar cases at top, bottom, front, back, drumming with clenched fists, open palms. We heard guitar music in honey-rich floods of golden, gorgeous notes. We heard bright castanets, a dozen kinds of drum, the sounds of virtual stringed and percussive instruments beyond count, even beyond belief. The young lady sitting beside me, in my audience row, gasped at one point “I see two guitars, but I hear a piano,they’ve got a piano up there, too?

The interplay between the two guitars was imaginative, full of unexpected digressions and delights. And the twins’ flair for the dramatic was ever-present. Among the program’s many highlights, Bernstein’s almost manic Mambo from West Side Story suggested a barely controlled frenzy a full orchestra could hardly match. The taut intensity of their El Amor Brujo selections also more than rivaled the full-colored drama of de Falla’s orchestral score.

The large audience at St. Paul’s was well aware: this was an exceedingly rich musical experience. Another plus: the thoughtful pleasure of being able to compare Katona Twins’ interpretations with those of other groups who’ve played during Impromptu Concerts present 2018 season. Bernstein’sSomewhere from West Side Story, for instance, had been sung memorably at the Sybarite5 Jan. 7 concert—by the cellist, surprisingly—who found the song an expression of fear and longing.

Another interpretation, heard in the Western Wind Feb. 11 concert, was more positive, glowing tenderly with reassurance for Maria’s dying lover.

Katona Twins found a third way to find meaning in Bernstein’s tøuching music and Sondheim’s multi-suggestive lyrics. The twins played it very quietly, with an ecstatic simplicity, a hymn of love that transcends sorrow.

Next Impromptu Classical Concert will be March 11, featuring the Eroica Trio. (Will the Eroica players doSomewhere, too? Come hear.) Tickets, as always, are reasonably priced at $20, students free - at the door, or via keystix.com (305-295-7676). Concerts start at 4 pm, please come early for preferred seating.