Jonathan Paget (guitar) and friends
St John’s Lutheran Church, Northbridge
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Top violist Yuri Bashmet’s performances with the W.A.Symphony Orchestra at the weekend tended to draw attention away from a much-less-lavishly advertised event at St John’s Lutheran Church in Northbridge. And a wintry evening did little to attract what ought to have been a much bigger audience to listen to Jonathan Paget and friends. But for those who made the effort to attend, it would surely have been a rewarding experience.
Paget, on the evidence of this performance, is a young musician who will be going places. His years of study in the United States as Fulbright Scholar have added a patina of professionalism to everything he touches. Certainly, his subtle, intimate artistry did much to draw attention from a venue that wasn’t much warmer than it was outside. And, of course, the chilly dampness of the night was the sort of weather to play havoc with guitar strings so, understandably, much time was spent tuning the guitar. It was well worth the effort; Paget’s intonation was near-faultless.
His account of William Walton’s Bagatelles was the highpoint of the evening as Paget breathed life and meaning into these fiendishly tricky pieces, not least the rapid arabesques of the opening Allegro and the gently rocking rhythms and finely detailed outlines of the second, all negotiated with skill and musicality. Throughout, there was about the presentation an understated artistry that impressed, not least in Sor’s funeral march from his Fantasie elegiaque, music that tapered off to the merest wraith of pianissimo sound. And, after interval, Paget’s account of Morel’s Dansa Brasileira worked its magic in spite of the maddening rumble of traffic along the adjoining road.
It seemed a shame, incidentally, that the musicians weren’t more visible to the audience. Perhaps, if other concerts are envisioned for this venue, a raised dais could do much to rectify the current less-than-ideal arrangement and make the players visible as well as audible.
Soprano Claire Lenyk, who I have not heard before, presented six of Falla’s Canciones populares espanoles. I was impressed by both the quality of vocal tone and the seemingly effortless manner with which it was produced. This was a splendid vocal effort, a stream of consistently pleasing, unforced and musically phrased sound that held the attention throughout. The guitar accompaniment, although unfailingly loyal to the singer’s intentions, was too attenuated for a cycle that really requires the significantly more substantial sound capable of being generated at the keyboard.
At interval, hot coffee and delicious biscuits were handy armour against the chill of the night.
2004 Copyright Neville Cohn