"We've played in churches, theaters, clubs, even open-air concerts," Mantovani said. "Two years ago, we played in an outdoor concert in Pittsburgh where there were 5,000 people present. I finally felt like a rock star that day and not a classical musician. It was definitely a wonderful experience."
But throughout his career, Mantovani has never played in an area like he will on Wednesday, when the Brazilian Guitar Quartet bring their sensational sounds to the atrium of the UBS Financial Center on Harbor Boulevard in Weehawken. The concert is the latest in the Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center's UBS Atrium free lunchtime concert series, which begins at 12:30 p.m.
"I don't think we've ever played in a lobby," Mantovani said. "This will be the first time, but I'm sure it is going to be fine. I'm not concerned with where we play. I think it's very exciting to bring our music to a new audience and to a place where there will be a nice performing arts center in the future. We're looking forward to it."
A blend of sounds and culture
Mantovani, who studied at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, feels like his group has a special purpose every time they perform.
"I believe that we're the musical ambassadors for Brazil," Mantovani said. "Most Brazilian classical music is not readily known outside our country, so anytime we can come to the United States to perform, we feel like we're introducing something new."
What makes the group special is their unique blend of six-string and extended-range, eight-string guitars, giving a different style and flavor not found in groups who strictly feature one instrument.
"But we have four different guitars and technically, that's very difficult," Mantovani said. "We play chamber music that was written mostly with other instruments in mind, so it becomes challenging to play music that was written for a wind instrument and we're plucking strings. Most classical music is influenced by folklore and local flavor, so we bring the culture of Brazil to our music, the native influence of performers like (Heitor) Villa-Lobos. But we also have native Indian influence, some Portuguese influence. It's a blend of many different cultures. That's what makes it all very unique."
Concerts around the world
The Brazilian Guitar Quartet has played all around the world, including Belgium, Denmark, Portugal, Scotland, Hong Kong and England. In 2004, they were the headliners at the inaugural World Guitar Congress in Baltimore, performing with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
They've also performed a few live concerts for National Public Radio and released four CDs of their work on the Delos record label.
Mantovani has performed as a soloist as well, but his greatest joy comes playing with the Brazilian Guitar Quartet.
"When it's going well, it really feels like we're playing four different instruments," Mantovani said. "But we know what we're supposed to do. We never want the other guy not to feel like he can't play freely. If he goes, I go with him. After 10 years together, we work these things out. It's like habit now. There's no worry."
Bruce Sherman, the executive director of the HRPAC, was delighted to have the quartet.
"There are very few great guitar ensembles in the world and the Brazilian Guitar Quartet is definitely one of them," said Sherman. "The repertoire for the concert will include the first suite from the Bachianas Brasileiras by Heitor Villa-Lobos, who was most certainly Brazil's most famous composer. This was originally written for eight cellos so it will be very interesting to hear how it sounds with four guitars."
He added, "Another highlight of the program will be a piece written specifically for the Brazilian Guitar Quartet by one of Brazil's best contemporary composers, Ronaldo Miranda."
Mantovani is happy to be returning to the New York metropolitan area.
"It's always exciting to be around New York," Mantovani said. "I feel it's the cultural center of the world. We try to play at least one concert a year in New York. It's going to be exciting to be in New Jersey for the first time."
However, there won't be 5,000 screaming rock fans this time around for an outdoor venue. The weather won't be conducive to outdoor guitar playing.
"We flew through Newark on the way to Florida the other day," Mantovani said. "We saw the weather and I said, `I'm glad we're not going to be outdoors when we return.' But it still should be a good show."
The HRPAC's presentation of the Brazilian Guitar Quartet will be held Wednesday, Feb. 21, at 12:30 p.m. in the atrium of the UBS Financial Services headquarters, 1000 Harbor Boulevard in Weehawken. Admission to the concert is free. For further information, log on to the HRPAC website at www.hrpac.org or call the concert hotline at (201) 716-4540.