Classical Guitar - Jonathan Prag

Combining an interesting program with an intimate setting and impressive technique, this concert of classical guitar music will be of interest to specialists and those who will enjoy a quiet church setting to encounter some intriguing pieces in the often under-appreciated repertoire of the classical guitar.

Prag and his instrument deserve your patronage.

Beginning with some Irish songs, arranged by fellow guitarist Steve Marsh, Jonathan Prag introduces himself with a demonstration of the lyricism and occasional beauty of this rich musical tradition.

According to Prag it was Bach, who, as with many guitarists, started it all for him, and the choice of the Prelude from the A minor Suite for solo lute is an excellent demonstration of why this is so often the case. Rearranged from the fifth cello suite by Bach himself, quasi-rubato explorations of elegant yet dissonant chord sequences develop into tricky, intricate runs. They are well supported with a seemingly impossible-to-maintain (with only that many fingers) bassline. It’s one of my favourite pieces and sits extremely well amongst the less conventional choices on the program.

Next up, a trio of Cuban boleros by noted ‘trovador’ Sindo Garay. There seemed to be a slight tuning issue in this piece – but playing in drop D in a slightly chilly church will always create problems in this department. It was otherwise a wonderfully textured and expressive choice and Prag’s technique is close to flawless.

The following piece was the highlight of the program. Nikita Koshkin’s Usher-Waltz is a staple of 20th Century repertoire; its catalogue of extended techniques signalling a redefinition of the kinds of expression possible on the nylon string guitar. It’s a piece inspired by the Edgar Allen Poe story The Fall of the House of Usher. In the piece, an increasingly demented A minor harmonic progression breaks down into chords pounded with the palm of the hand, with ghostly, beautiful harmonics, and various kinds of twangings and joltings not normally expected from a classical guitarist. It’s an incredible piece, and a brave one to include on the program.

Prag rounds off with some clever pieces by contemporary composer Matthew Sear, based on impressions of the U.S.A., and a very beautiful Paraguayan piece by Agustin Barrios. The choice of encore, Vincent Lindsey-Clark’s Pulsar, is a final reminder of the depth of Prag’s technique. The repertoire of the classical guitar is a much under-appreciated area of Western classical music. Prag and his instrument deserve your patronage.

Reviews by James Macnamara


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The Blurb

Jonathan arrives fresh from sell-out international shows after his appearances at this year's Adelaide and Toronto Fringe Festivals. Included in the programme this year are Nikita Koshkin's Usher Waltz, pieces by Bach, Barrios and Fauré and the folk melodies of Turlough O'Carolan. Cuban rhythms add a little extra drama along with Pulsar by Vincent Lindsey-Clark. 'Driving bass lines and animated finger work boasted the range of Prag's abilities' (Martin Parker, Scotsman). 'An intimate setting and superb classical guitarist, filling the room with music that at times carried me away - it was bliss' (Kryztoff).

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