Italian Text

Chris Duarte

JOHN W. DUARTE - Concierto alegre Op.101 Bringing a concerto to life

by Chris Duarte

Duarte had the privilege of working with many of the world's best duos in the 1960s-1980s, including Presti/Lagoya, Assimakopoulos/Zoe and Ito/Dorigny. In addition, he made many arrangements, some for use in schools and some more advanced, of music by several Renaissance lute composers, Weiss, J.S. Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Bartók and Poulenc. Duarte's first request for a concerto for two guitars came in 1967, from Ida Presti, who wanted a concerto for two guitars, based on English 16th century tunes, as Rodrigo had done for Gaspar Sanz and one guitar. However, her death in that year put an end to that project and, what became A Tudor Fancy Op.50, wasn't finished until 1972 and for one guitar and orchestra.

Nearly 15 years elapsed before Duarte received a commission for a double concerto in 1985 from the Venezuelan/German duo of Alfonso Montes and Irina Kircher. Duarte decided to incorporate a Venezuelan element into the score by using some of Antonio Lauro's waltz, La Negra, which he had previously edited for publication by Universal Edition, Wien. The orchestration is deliberately light with two flutes and one each of oboe, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, the usual string section, but a battery of percussion, including a vibraphone and celesta (or two vibraphones). The music proceeds in a variety of 'conversations', preventing the guitar parts being overwhelmed by any heavy orchestral accompaniments.

“Two guitars are, as Chopin opined, more beautiful than one1; they are not, however, subiectively twice as loud. The addition of a second guitar extends the musical range, but it does not represent a change of scale in terms of volume. The guitar duo remains a chamber medium, though a rich one. The relationship to large auditoria and vast audiences is not essentially changed, nor is the problem of pitting the forces of the instrument against those of even a small orchestra in a ‘concerto’ or ‘concertante’ form.” 2

John W. Duarte & Terry Usher, Conway Hall, London, 1950

The first performance of Concierto alegre didn't take place until 1994, because Montes and Duarte had a disagreement. Another performance followed in 1995, but nothing afterwards. In 2020 I started to look at the manuscript score, thinking about a publication and associated recording. I had no idea whether this was his original score, or a copy. He tended to send out original manuscripts in the expectation they would be returned. This rarely happened! Alongside editing the full score, my wife created a piano reduction, which made a harmonic analysis of the music much easier. This called into question some passages of music, especially involving the viola part, where his use of the alto clef was confusing. When working on previous scores I had also noticed some metronome markings which seemed to be unfeasibly fast. Duarte had a triangular Mälzel metronome and the movable weight on the timing post was slightly loose. On more than one occasion the weight was seen to slide downwards while the metronome mark was being established! In consultation with Nicola Montella and Antonio De Innocentis, who edited the guitar parts, I made a few practical changes.

Lastly, a comprehensive dynamic scheme was needed. Duarte frequently left his music without any dynamics, expecting performers to insert their own. For an orchestral work this is obviously impractical. In the 3rd movement, for instance, there are no dynamic markings in the manuscript for more than 90 bars. I spent a long time working on a plan, at the same time also changing some pizzicato markings to arco. The full score contains a complete set of critical notes, indicating all the changes and decisions we made.

In August 2022 A Tudor Fancy and Concierto alegre were recorded in London, with an orchestra directed by Gian Luigi Zampieri. The subsequent recording became volume 2 of Brilliant Classic's John W. Duarte Guitar Music series and features five premiere recordings.



1 Now thought to be an apocryphal statement.

2 John W. Duarte: Rationale of The Guitar-Duo Form, Guitar Review, May 1969.

Registrazione Brilliant Classics

John W. Duarte Guitar Music Volume 2 (96510) - Opere orchestrali e concertanti per chitarra:

A Tudor Fancy Op.50* (ADI); Quartetto Concertante Op.22* (ADI);

Concierto Alegre Op.101* (Duo);

Next Market Day* (NM);

The Coolin of Rùm* (ADI)

Antonio De Innocentis e Nicola Montella - Assoli per chitarra; Orchestra da camera di Belfort, Duo chitarristico di Belfort, Gian Luigi Zampieri (direttore).



Full score DO 1492


Piano reduction with solo guitar parts DO 1511


Orchestral parts are on hire from the publisher.


Francesco Corbetta: Suite in A Minor transcribed John W. Duarte, played by Jukka Savijoki


A Tudor Fancy Op.50 - 3rd Movement, Gigge


Concierto Alegre Op.101 - 1st movement


This quote from the 1969 Ida Presti memorial edition of Guitar Review, edited by John W.Duarte, was written in response to her death in 1967. Duarte began exploring the musical textures of two guitars as early as 1937 and composed his last work for this combination in 1998. He had the benefit of playing duets with his teacher, Terence Usher, and together they made more than 200 arrangements of everything from folk songs and popular tunes to well-known classics. One of Duarte’s first original compositions for two guitars was his Chanson Op.14, written in 1950 and dedicated to Usher. It has been recorded several times, including by the Duo Fragnito/Matarazzo.