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El Duo Duende

Photo of El Duo Duende
The performing duo of Craig Alden Dell and AnnaMaria Cardinalli

El Duo Duende was only a three-week-old performing team when they appeared at the renowned Healdsburg Guitar Festival in Sonoma County, California, in late August 2005, yet they met with a level of success and audience response that could not have been anticipated. Perhaps it was the history of their association that lent their playing a unique symbiosis as a duet and captured the audience's musical imagination.

Craig Alden Dell is among the world's most elite classical guitarists, having studied extensively with Emilio Pujol and Hector Garcia, and later with Christopher Parkening. In 1968, Craig also received career guidance from Maestro Andres Segovia. In addition to winning numerous major competitions as a classical guitarist, he possessed a combined talent as a rarely gifted flamenco player who was a close student of El Sarasate, and Sabicas, the .King of Flamenco Guitar.. He was also, from extensive traveling in the seventies and early eighties, a fiercely toughened young player who opted for the "alternative" appearance.

In 1981, after attending one of Craig's concerts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a three-year-old, curly-mopped AnnaMaria Cardinalli bounded through the door of his studio, tugged on his leather pant leg, and politely demanded that he teach her to play "just like him!" Craig was quite amazed at her natural abilities for music and the guitar, especially at three years of age. The unlikely pair became immediate friends and spent a wonderful but short time in which Craig both taught AnnaMaria and inspired her with all the beauty of which the guitar is capable.

As fate would have it, a player of Craig's caliber could not be held to a teaching studio for long, and the road soon called him back. In fifteen or twenty years, still performing in concert venues, Craig began to hear AnnaMaria's name again, this time as a fully professional guitarist and operatic mezzo-soprano, having such successes as performing for the Spanish Royal Family, giving a solo recital at the Kennedy Center, singing a cappella for Pope John Paul II, and touring in performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez. These major accomplishments piqued Craig's interest and after a series of missed connections, Craig was finally able to contact AnnaMaria again. Both were in for a revelation.

When they traded recordings, they discovered an amazing phenomenon. Because AnnaMaria had never had a serious, long-term teacher after Craig, and because it was Craig's playing that had once had such an impact on her, AnnaMaria did in fact play "just like him!," as her three-year-old self had dreamed. There were just a few differences. While both players shared an expressionistic sense, Craig's playing spoke of disciplined and broad experience while AnnaMaria's playing spoke of enthusiastic abandon, and, Craig's playing was as powerfully masculine as AnnaMaria's playing was warmly feminine.

"El Duo Duende" was born as the two realized that this constituted the makings of an ideal duet--two guitarists able to play as one, yet each expressing something uniquely complimentary to the other. The Duo takes the work of Ida Presti and Alexandre Lagoya as an inspiration and performs some of their repertoire, but as both Craig and AnnaMaria also share a background in flamenco, and Craig is an accomplished lutenist as AnnaMaria is an accomplished vocalist, they stretch the boundaries of a classical guitar duet. They seek out and work to incorporate any repertoire that may invite the "Duende," the flamenco spirit of healing which rises out of emotional suffering, to visit them in performance.

Click here to listen to MP3 samples of their flamenco and classical music available now on CD in our online store.

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