Nicholas Young and Matthew Fagan
España El Vito (The Spirit of Spain)
Wesley Music Centre, October 19, 2018
Review by Clinton White
The title of this concert was something of a misnomer; a better descriptor might have been Fuego de España (Fire of Spain). Indeed, this was the problem with the programming for this concert, for, in the main, it was fast, furious and Fortississimo (fff in music notation).
There’s no doubt pianist, Nicholas Young, and guitarist, Matthew Fagan, are virtuosi. Their credentials are undeniable and their technical skills were quite astounding, especially their precise timing. Even long vivace sequences of notes played in unison were perfect. But with only a couple of works that gave the program some colour and a variety of moods, there was very little showing of the heart of Spain, with the majority just belted out, full pelt.
Of interest was Fagan’s 10-string guitar (he also played a standard 6-string classical instrument). It had a depth and range perfectly suited to the genre. However, it, and the 6-string, although played with great technical skill, were amplified. This not only amplified the sound, but also the mechanical thumping of the fingers hitting the strings. This interrupted and distracted from the beauty, clarity and purity of tone that is so redolent of the guitar family. Still, on their own, they would have been no match for the power of the piano.
This was a pity, because the pairing of the piano and guitar was an inspired choice. There was a beautiful complementarity between the two, especially when they played melody lines in unison. Perhaps this could do with some re-thinking to see how the guitars might feature, unamplified, showcasing their true, natural, acoustic qualities.
The concept that Young and Fagan have up with has potential. With some more thoughtful programming and a bit more “spirit” in the interpretations, coupled with their very fine playing, their concerts will be more musically satisfying.