Michael Partington Saturday 11th November 2006

Micheal Partington at the Grove Garden Chapel Richmond Nov 2006Having been thrashed by Argentina in the afternoon the people of West London needed a pick me up and in this respect Michael Partington proved a more than adequate remedy.

A young guitarist from Seattle Michael was making his return to West London having performed at the Richmond venue some months ago.

The concert opened with the obligatory Rossiniane written by Mauro Giuliani (Three of the last guitar recitals I have attended has included one) this proved to be a good starter with its Rosining like opening performed here with lovely changes in tone and dynamics as the melodies and interspersed chords moved us through, by way of runs, to a trio section.

In typical Rossini manner we had false endings and marches followed by a Scherzo like section and culminating with a grand protracted ending. The varying use of tone and dynamic throughout kept the audience enthralled.

Next up we had the variations on a Finish Folksong by Bryan Johanson who, like Michael, is from Washington State. I must admit I approached this with trepidation as I have an in bred distrust of Finish music having taken against Sibelius at an early age. I should not have been worried here we had a well thought out working of a simple folk melody that could, in fact, have come from anywhere in Northern Europe reminding me of the second line of the Llanelli favourite Saucepan Bach.

This was stylishly played as the theme was taken through many different variations with the tune moving from upper strings to lower. On of my colleagues was of the opinion that the Eastern variation could have been written by Takemitso – praise in itself.

Although relatively short this was I think the highlight of the first half and I would certainly enjoy hearing it again particularly in such competent and impressive hands.

The first half was ended by a rendition of three of the four seasons written by Piazzolla and arranged for solo guitar by Sergio Assad. Guitar arrangements of Piazzolla's music are getting more common but none the less enjoyable for that. As we were taken through Autumn, winter and summer we had a mixture of the sleazy and sexy tango tunes associated with Piazzolla mixed in with some fine bridging movements all played with an inbuiltt understanding of these apparently simple but complex rhythms.

Michael gave us an interesting introduction relating a meeting that Piazzolla had with Nadia Boulanger who advised him that he would make a good second rate classical composer but an excellent Tango composer. I for one am happy he chose the latter track.

Following a refreshing glass of wine we then were entertained by Usher Vals apiece by Nikita Koshkin based on the Fall of the House of Usher. We were supposed to hear the guitarist's fall into insanity which I for one missed but this didn't take anything away from my enjoyment

The piece was basically a waltz movement except for a short central section the first beat of the early waltz bars being embellished but as the waltz returned we began to get decoration on the second beat. The insanity was demonstrated by a strange section with lower notes being deliberately distorted but, and this is where I didn't quite follow the programme, a return out of madness to a simple, pensive waltz.

The next item was written for Michael by Stephen Goss and it had been hoped he would be present but he couldn't make it. This sonata for solo guitar was recently premiered in September in Denver and was played as three continuous movements based loosely on Debussy, Scarlatti and Beethoven respectively.

The guitar was put through a real test here with the highest fretted notes followed by the lowest as the guitarist is asked to perform a technically awkward piece with musicality. We needn't have worried as the audience seemed spellbound as wonderful bell sounds interspersed with runs tremolos and some lovely sweet sounds emanated from the stage. A comment on how it went was the wonderful silence in the audience as the dead quiet of the ending approached. If you get a chance to hear this piece it is well worth the effort.

The final programmed piece was the ever popular Tres Piezas Espanolas by Rodrigo.

Here we had the familiar opening fandango played with the aplomb of a guitarist who had won his audience and could relax into this most Spanish of pieces with all Rodrigo's strange harmonies and slightly atonal themes. This was delivered, if not quite the style of Segovia the original dedicate, but none the less enjoyably.

The second of these pieces is the Passacaglia in which Bach seems to meet Spain but without the heart wrenching falling cadences. The introduction of Flamenco like chords reminds us that this piece was written only fifty years ago.

The final Zapataedo starts off quickly and the guitarist seemed to hit all the right notes, as he had throughout the evening, as this energetic opening slows to an Aranjuez like theme leading us to a flamboyant finish.

The finish as such would have been a fine ending to the concert but Michael produced two folksong arrangements as encores to send the fifty or so members of the audience happily into the night in search of food in some cases.

Don't miss this young man next time he is town.


Steve Ledwick- Greenwood Classical Guitar Society