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Published: Saturday, 2/14/2004

Family guitarists flourish in Peristyle


The quirky vitality of Hispanic music, at once vital and subtle, always forcefully nuanced, was the focus last night as The Romeros, a two-generation family guitar quartet performed at the Peristyle. The evening featured the musicians in solo, duo, and quartet assignments. What did not vary was the positive energy that flowed from the stage.

Usually the Peristyle, with its frightfully uneven acoustics, gives performers troubles. Not last night. Indeed, for two hours the fog seemed to clear and the cavernous impersonal space seemed almost embracing.

Perhaps the guitar is particularly well-suited for the Peristyle. More likely, however, credit should go to The Romeros, who performed with extraordinary lucidity. Their ensemble was crystalline.

Indeed, these musicians take extreme risks. Scale passages of lightning speed are played in unison or in octaves. Handoffs between instrumentalists are dangerously exposed. Such circumstances magnify any problems with intonation, timing, or emotional effect. But last night there were almost none.

The evening opened with Franciso de Madina s Caurteto No. 1, a 1969 homage to Angelita Romero, the family matriarch. Conservative in tonal language, the work nevertheless featured occasionally stark dissonance and an irresistibly motoric finale. The program closed with Jeronimo Gimenez s equally stimulating “La boda de Luis Alonso.”

But though these bigger pieces served as bookends, the heart of the program was in the solos and duets.

Celin and Pepe Romero, who represent the older generation, gave an alternately embracing and exhilarating reading of Albeniz s “Granada” from his “Suite espanola.”

Pepe Romero s emotionally detailed performance of Tarrega s “Recuerdos de la Alhambra” was exquisite.

The most harmonically adventurous music came with Celin s discerning readings of two preludes by Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Celino and Lito Romero, the younger generation, performed with less expansiveness, but an abundance of virtuosity. Both men performed compositions by their grandfather, the group s founder, Celedonio Romero. Celino thrilled with his flamboyant performance of “Fantasia”

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