The Bradbury Centre
Saturday 19 March 2016
Michael Partington, now based in the USA, is in the UK for a series of concerts, and we were delighted to host one of them as part of our Concert Series.
A bright start with the always fresh-sounding Coste was followed by the trio of Torroba pieces, which he gave a beautiful Spanish bravura and lyricism, the Alcázar finishing off the set with marvellous right-hand work. Michael went on to describe Johann Kaspar Mertz’ style as influenced by the Romantic works of Mendelssohn and Schumann, and he brought this out in clean, beautiful tones and colours in the Elégie – ‘a rich, powerful composition with anger, sadness and impotence, as well as celebration’.
Michael is a champion of new repertoire. The first of the new pieces in tonight’s programme was US guitarist and composer Bryan Johansen’s La Folia Folio, a set of modern variations on the often-used 16th century Spanish piece La Folia. Johansen’s treatment is perhaps light-hearted in intent, but no less demanding of the player for it, with its requirement for jazz, Elizabethan, Arabic, Spanish and flamenco styles. The big finale is a joy, and lovely end to the first half of the programme.
The wonderful Piazzola set opened the second half, with Michael using his Martin Blackwell double-top instrument delightfully to deliver the rich and moving music. Following this was the Stephen Goss, performed for the first time only a month ago – the composer himself has yet to hear it! The work is an introspective and delicate description of a memorial chapel. The final pieces, the Albéniz, are familiar to most guitarists and pianists, but Michael’s arrangements are novel in striving to respect the piano original to the maximum, including, in Mallorca, maintaining a bass line lost in other transcriptions by using a remarkable barré held down with the thumb on the 6th string on the front of the fingerboard. The accompaniment is full, and the melodies ring through. Michael makes no compromises to simplicity in his arrangements, but handles the tough task with calm and great musicality.
The encore, Farewell to Stromness was an apposite choice in the light of the death last week of the composer, Peter Maxwell Davies. Michael did music and composer full justice.
Michael kindly stayed to chat and sign CDs, and later, at the Eastfield Inn, regaled us with fascinating insights into the psychology of the performer, complete with book references and personal anecdotes. We headed home gratefully with that, our new CDs and an excellent concert to digest. Our warm thanks to Michael for a great evening of music.
Nick Regan March 2016
Napoleon Coste 1805-1883
Rondeau de Concert, Op. 12
Federico Moreno Torroba 1891-1982
Andante (from Sonatina)
Alcázar de Segovia (from Castillos de España)
Johann Kaspar Mertz 1806-1856
Bryan Johanson b. 1951
La Folia Folio
Astor Piazzolla 1921-1992
Las Cuatro Estaciones Porteñas (The Four
Seasons of Buenos Aires)
– Otoño porteño
– Invierno porteño
– Verano porteño
Stephen Goss b. 1964
Isaac Albéniz 1869-1909
Cádiz (from Suite española)
Peter Maxwell-Davies 1934-2016
Farewell to Stromness (from The Yellow Cake Revue)
*written for Michael Partington