Tag Archives: Jonathan Paget

The Magic of the Plucked String

Jonathan Paget (guitar)
Stewart Smith (harpsichord)
Joshua Devlin (percussion)

Conservatorium Auditorium


reviewed by Neville Cohn 

Jonathan Paget



Many critics – or, perhaps, it might be more accurate to say that many arts editors – tend to turn their noses down at lunchtime concerts. True, there are the ever present – and very real – problems about available space on newspaper pages for such endeavours. Yet, these presentations, whether under the auspices of this or that university or church, often yield surprisingly high listening dividends. And there was a golden dividend available to those, regrettably few, who gathered at the Conservatorium Auditorium to listen to an all-Spanish program.

Prime focus of all ears was Rodrigo’s much loved Fantasia para un gentilhombre but here presented in a most unusual transcription for guitar, harpsichord and percussion. How, I wondered, would this sound? Would this be yet another unfortunate massacre of a masterpiece forced into some utterly inappropriate mould?

I listened with some apprehension but, within moments, my concerns evaporated as I listened with the utmost care. And as measure followed measure, I was converted utterly to this re-ordering of Rodrigo’s masterpiece. In fact, I cannot too highly praise both the work of those who arranged it and the musicians who breathed life into it at a performance that I shall not easily forget – and for all the best reasons.

Smith brought rare qualities of musical taste and refinement to his task. His contribution was a model of its kind. The same could be said of Paget’s performance, not least for the manner in which he made light of Rodrigo’s often excruciatingly demanding measures.

Throughout, both Paget and Smith shaped to the demands of the score like sangria to a goblet. Joshua Devlin did well, too, in the discreet part for percussion although initially perhaps a shade too tentative.

But looking around and seeing too many vacant seats, one might ask where the aficionados of the genre were, the sort who will break doors down to gain entrance to a recital by, say, John Williams, but remain indifferent to what is on their very doorstep – but then, Williams is now based abroad and so he can be thought of as ‘imported’ when visiting his homeland. Fie on these musical snobs. They were the losers in neglecting to attend this astonishingly fine performance.

Earlier, Paget did wonders in a transcription of Albeniz’s Sevilla. And Smith, who is as versatile as he is gifted, brought a fine sense of style to two early baroque organ pieces by de Santa Maria and de Arauxo.

This program had the stamp of distinction.

Copyright 2006 Neville Cohn

Jonathan Paget (guitar) and friends St John’s Lutheran Church, Northbridge

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