Michael Partington


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REVIEWS

"The most impressive aspect of this debut recording is the musical maturity that Partington demonstrates throughout ... great dynamic breadth, variety of timbre and deft phrasing."


"Thirty years ago, any guitarist of Partington's calibre would surely have been destined for a very high profile career. In today's competitive climate, it is to be hoped that his considerable talents still gain the recognition they deserve."


"...lyricism, intensity and clear technical command... Partington is an intelligent and articulate young guitarist, one to be welcomed without reservation."


"...a young guitarist of great refinement and sensitivity...I wish this fine colleague the great success that will surely be his."
--Eliot Fisk


"Partington possesses a most refined manner in everything he does with the guitar: his technique is polished and effortless, his phrasing clear and logical, his tone most appealing, clean and powerful."


"Heartfelt and technically splendid ... his playing was exquisite. An absolutely wonderful performance."


"From the beginning Michael showed complete control and delighted everyone with his interpretation ... flawless technique and musicianship."


"The success of his recital was due to the considerable technical and musical mastery which he brought to a varied and demanding programme ... warm tone, clear articulation with well-shaped melodic lines and finely controlled contrasts of dynamics and tone-colour ... impressive clarity and security."


"Michael has a special touch...The concert was sheer pleasure for the audience"
--Northwest Guitar Society


"...a breathtaking performance."


"Beautifully lyrical ... played with great feeling. Full of colour and vitality."


"His command of technique is used very tastefully, always to the benefit of the music. Perhaps his final strength is his understanding of the music that he is playing and his ability to convey it to the audience."


"His inspirational playing and story-telling left them fascinated and awestruck...marvelous virtuosity and musicality."


"Michael plays with technical clarity and an inspired sense of musicality, making his performances both exciting and captivating. This young player has a bright future."
--Steven Novacek


"I had the pleasure of hearing Michael Partington play when he handily won the Northwest Competition. Of course pleasure is not the only emotion I experience when I hear a guitarist of Partington's calibre; jealousy comes to mind as well. His lively intelligence, classy sense of taste and superb technique are seamlessly wedded together ... a guitarist and musician to be reckoned with. I look forward to hearing him again."
--Marc Teicholz



Classical Guitar Magazine.
October 1998 (Chris Kilvington)

A fine beginning here with the Torroba - clear and precise, with a really lyrical middle movement and effervescent conclusion, a positive invitation to listen to what's coming next. Which, of course, is one of the classics of this century, Martin's Quatre Pieces Breves, a work which Partington embues with lyricism, intensity and clear technical command. Ponce's Sonata Clasica, an example of high quality pastiche, is perhaps not much played nowadays (?). The guitarist captures all its inherent charm and grace, and one would think that Sor might have nodded in approval of both composer and performer. The sparkling concluding Allegro is particularly attractive.

Nikita Koshkin's Usher Waltz has proved to be one of his most popular works of recent years, already falling into the category of 'enduring favourite'. This rendition focuses on the melodic aspects rather than the passionate/aggressive possibilities (except - inevitably - the Bartok pizzicato section), and in these terms is a real success.

A case for Britten's Nocturnal continuing to be the benchmark of the century could easily be argued. It is one of those fortuitous compositions which (at least in my experience) never seems to suffer mediocre performances, live or recorded. Maybe I'm wrong - but there does seem to be something about it that attracts thoughtful imagination and skill like a magnet, while gently dissuading those of lesser capabilities. Michael Partington's tone has been unfailingly good throughout this CD, and here it probably serves him better than anywhere. He characterizes each movement very much according to the composer's written intentions, and we know how fastidious Britten was about all aspects of his work; thus the simple individual section titles are very well realized. The piece, of course, makes for a most rewarding way to conclude a recital, and the guitarist has certainly taken the opportunity well, an apt and considered ending.

Judging by this enjoyable and satisfying disc Michael Partington is an intelligent and articulate young guitarist, one to be welcomed without reservation.





South Wales Argus,
July 23rd, 1997 and
Monmouthshire Beacon,
July 10th, 1997 (Glyn Edwards)

How appropriate that on one of America's most important holidays we were entertained by a former resident of Raglan who now resides in the USA. Guitarist Michael Partington’s recital drew to a close a series of concerts in Britain after winning a number of highly prestigious prizes and awards in Washington.

The Capacity audience at St. Cadoc's Church were treated to an impressive opener with the Sonata Clasica by Manuel Ponce. From the beginning Michael showed complete control and delighted everyone with his interpretation. The first half closed with Britten's Nocturnal. A notoriuosly challenging work, it was perhaps at this point that we were to realise that we were listening to a masterful working of one of the guitar’s most important repertoire pieces. Michael rose to the occasion with flawless technique and musicianship. The second half continued with more 20th century works including M Pujol and Torroba and culminating in a breathtaking performance of Koshkin's Usher Waltz. This was a performance to savour and to reflect on what a fine musician we have lost to the USA. However, with such good review, I hope and feel sure that Michael will return.





Dorset Guitar Society,
September 1997 Newsletter (Chris Daly)

A guitar recital is an unusual event in Sherborne, and it was encouraging that the artist on Tuesday evening was supported by a large and approving audience. Michael Partington is a guitar performance major at the University of Washington and has already won several large competitions in the United States. The success of his recital in Sherborne was due to the considerable technical and musical mastery which he brought to a varied and demanding programme. The general characteristics of his playing were a warm tone, clear articulation with well shaped melodic lines and finely controlled contrasts of dynamics and tone colour. He also showed impressive clarity and security in very rapid passages.

The programme opened with the Sonata Clasica by Manuel Ponce. Large scale works present a problem of achieving overall unity, but in this case the four movements were successfully contrasted in such a way as to give the feeling of a whole. Next came Britten’s Nocturnal which has gradually established itself in the repertoire as an unusually imaginative piece -- very demanding in both technique and expression.

Following the interval, the Quatre Pieces Breves by Frank Martin continued the modern style of composition. These were followed by the enduring Sonatina by Moreno-Torroba, a composer whose sunny Spanish impressionism never fails to delight, partly because his writing for the guitar is truly musical and idiomatic. The final work of the programme was the Usher Waltz by Russian composer Nikita Koshkin. Here the deliberately harsh effects of some passages were a long way from the genial Torroba.

A particularly well played voodoo dance, the Candombe in Mi by Maximo Diego Pujol, given as an encore, brought to a close a most enjoyable recital. We wish all success to Michael Partington.





West Sussex Guitar Club News.
September 1997 (Sasha Levtov)

Michael Partington concluded our series of recitals by young professionals. His programme was the classic example of concert architecture of high demand, promise and fulfillment. First came the splendid Sonata Clasica by Ponce, full of beautiful melodies which recalled for us the colourful world of Sor’s music. Then came a very noble reading of Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal, without doubt one of the greatest pieces written for the guitar this century. A concentrated and descriptive introduction to this piece was a most welcome gesture by the performer and highlighted some splendid elements of this mysterious work. The Sonatina by Torroba is a very popular programme choice amongst concert guitarists and deservedly so. In fact, this was the fourth time it had been performed on our platform this season. This was a beautiful reading of the work and superbly held our concentration throughout. Finally, that most vivid evocation of Edgar Allen Poe’s macabre story -- the Usher Waltz by Nikita Koshkin, displaying great credit to the performer’s intelligence, precision and control. Perhaps the control was a little too rigid -- in this piece the dark forces, which Michael so vividly described in his introduction, must be given rein in the performance.

Michael Partington possesses a most refined manner in everything that he does with the guitar: his technique is polished and effortless, his phrasing is clear and logical, his tone is most appealing, clean and powerful. What a privilege –to play host to musicians of such talent, spirit and dedication. The unanimous reaction of our audience must be to wish each of them a brilliant career and to hope that happy memories of their time with us will bring them back to our stage!

Thanks to all who helped to make our guest artists so comfortable, and all who helped with the publicity, programmes and the preparations of the club evenings so we all could enjoy the art of such talented musicians.





Seattle Classic Guitar Society.
September 1997 (Brian Dunbar)

It was a nice Saturday evening, warm and sunny with at least a dozen options for things to do outdoors. But for some reason about 100 people chose to forego a walk around Greenlake or a visit to the 'Bite of Seattle', and instead went to hear an evening of the classical guitar of Michael Partington. This could be a testament to Partington’s following or that of that the guitar, probably a mixture of the two. In either case, Partington played a marvelous program and the instrument shined.

I stated in a review of an earlier concert this year how much I appreciate a program that combines the well known with the more obscure, and I think that this recital was along those lines. Sure, I was familiar with all of the pieces, but not all are played in concert very often.

Manuel Ponce is certainly a staple among guitar composers, but we tend to hear the same few pieces performed again and again. The choice of Sonata Clasica is a welcome variance. This is one of several works that Ponce wrote in the style of composers from the past, in this case Fernando Sor. This brings a question, should it be played in the style of Sor, or more a la Segovia/Ponce? Whether it was a conscious decision, I felt that Partington chose a comfortable path in the middle.

Benjamin Britten's Nocturnal for Guitar is one of the true monument sof 20th century guitar composition. Its importance will stand the test of time, while I suspect other contemporary pieces may become mere novelties. The problem though is to preset it to an audience that may not be familiar with it, or savvy enough with music theory in general to understand what is going on. Partington gave a nice introduction to the work that was not overly analytical or lengthy, which gave the less informed listeners the ability to enjoy this complex work. His understanding of this work was evident in the performance. The movements flowed seamlessly, each treatment supporting the various concepts of stages of sleep. This work ends rather unusually in that the final climax builds not towards excited frenzy, but to a very soft and serene setting of a John Dowland lute song. To pull this off takes great subtlety, which Partington executed very well. This is a work that one can spend years learning and understanding, it would be nice to hear Michael play it again in 10 years.

Another important work of this century, Frank Martin’s Quatre Pieces Breves, is sometimes played by people whose fingers might be ready for it before their intellect is. Partington, however, clearly has ideas about what is going on there: this is a modern treatment of some very old song and dance forms. As such it takes a careful balance of the 20th century musical vocabulary with the renaissance structure. While many might have played the Air with more mystery, Partington seemed to approach it with a bit more elegance and let any other images to arise on their own. This again seemed to be the approach with the Plainte –a steady chordal pulse that allowed the melodic seed to grow on its own. Thankfully, Comme une Gigue was played very dance-like. This may seem obvious, but too often I have heard it played much too forcefully, losing any connection to its titular characteristics.

I thought Michael shined the most in his performance of Federico Moreno Torroba’s Sonatina. A deceptively difficult piece, Partington played it with an ease that allowed the music to overcome the technical problems that accompany it. The first displayed ever changing emotions, first playful, then very serious. I was also impressed by the careful treatment of inner voices, often ignored by other players. The Andante was sweet and nostlagic, yet never lost its momentum. Finally, the last movement was played with gusto and lightness, despite the difficult tremolo bursts and constant position changes.

Nikita Koshkin’s Usher Waltz is based on Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher' and is a quirky piece that is both amusing and profound. A perfect concert closer. Partington seemed to enjoy playing it and gave just the right amount of humor while still taking it seriously. With its snapping strings and extreme vibrato, the audience loved this unusual offering. It is difficult to say where Partington will go after he concludes his studies at the University of Washington, but it appears that he will enjoy a long and successful career in the guitar world. He has performed a number of concerts during the past year and seems to learn pieces quickly and thoroughly. His command of technique is used very tastefully, always to the benefit of the music first. Perhaps his final strength is his understanding of the music and his ability to convey it to the audience. His is a career to watch.





Blackmore Vale Magazine.
July 1997 (DF)

The ambience of the Cheap Street church was perfect for a recital by the very gifted classical guitarist Michael Partington. The programme of 20th century music, starting with Manuel Maria Ponce's Sonata Clasica, was greeted enthusiastically. This was a beautifully lyrical composition with the second movement, the Andante, played with great feeling. Then on to Benjamin Britten's only solo guitar piece, Nocturnal Op. 70 -- a set of variations based on the song Come Heavy Sleep by John Dowland -- strange but intensely moving. This was followed by a suite with strong Baroque tones by Frank Martin, Quatre Pieces Breves, and a Sonatina by Federico Moreno Torroba -- very Spanish and full of colour and vitality. Michael ended the evening with a piece by the Russion composer Nikita Koshkin, the Usher Waltz, based on Edgar Allen Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher', a musical view of the main character’s descent into madness -- the climax was electrifying.





Seattle Classic Guitar Society.
January 1997 (Mike Shanahan)

Michael Partington's work as a soloist and in ensembles has brightened many an SCGS program since his arrival in Seattle several years ago, from the wonderful Sor Seguidillas he performed with soprano Virginia Voulgaris at February ’96 coffeehouse concert to his solo work in a wide range of performances. His concert at the University of Washington's Brechemin Auditorium on December 8th 1996 provided a chance to hear Partington in both roles, as gifted soloist and superb ensemble player.

Partington opened with the Sonata Clasica of Manuel Ponce (Homage a Fernando Sor), in a clean and lyrical interpretation which made full use of Partington’s affinity for the music of Sor. Starting of the concert with a major work, Michael then went on to an even more substantial one, the Nocturnal by Benjamin Britten. This was both a heatrtfelt and technically splendid interpretation of Britten's one guitar work, from the atmospheric single lines of the opening 'musingly' section, through the six other brief but technically demanding sections, to the complex and splendid Passacaglia. Michael handled all of the technical demands with confidence and style, culminating in his magnificent rendition of the multi-voiced passacaglia. After this demanding section, displaying Partington’s technical skill to the utmost, his lyrical and interpretative skills came to the fore as Dowland's theme ('Copme heavy Sleep') emerged out of the passacaglia at the end of the piece. Partington caught perfectly Britten's evocation of peace after struggle, as the gentle renaissance tune emerged from the frenzy of the preceding variations; his playing was exquisite right through to the end, as the Dowland melody faded off into silence and sleep. An absolutely wonderful performance of one of our century’s most demanding guitar works.

After the intermission Partington was joined by a string quartet (Kelly Jeppesen and Yu-Ling Cheng, violins; Tim Prior, viola; and Loren Dempster, cello) for the final piece of the program, Mauro Giuliani’s Grand Concerto Op. 30. This was a chance to hear the work -- perhaps the first real guitar concerto, dating from 1810 -- in the string quartet arrangement made by the composer himself. Both Partington and the quartet played exquisitely, from the delightfully Mozartian panache of the first movement, through a gorgeous interpretation of the -andantino siciliano' and the concluding rondo. A perfect programming choice, the splendid Italian classical-romantic work balancing the more restrained classical-romantic qualities of Ponce and the searching, complex sonorities of the Britten Nocturnal. A satisfying and varied program to the finish!





Classical Guitar Magazine,
January 1999 (Paul Fowles)

Wirksworth Town Hall, Derbyshire, 7 November 1998

Apart from a minor lapse in the Fantasy by John Dowland, Anglo-American guitarist Michael Partington scarcely put a finger wrong in this short but energetic performance. particularly successful was the witty and virtuosic account of Giuliani's Rossiniane No. 3 on a Panormo copy. frank Martin's Quatre Pieces Breves, which was cunningly placed in the 'baroque' slot between Dowland and Giuliani, provided the main substance of the first half - here is a work whose place in the pantheon of twentieth century guitar compositions is both established and justified.

Gerald Garcia's Astoria (Homage to Piazolla) is a competent enough replication of the stylistic trademarks of the dedicatee, although one inevitably questions the existance of such a work when there's so much genuine Piazolla available to the guitarist. No such reservations could be expressed about Torroba's evergreen Sonatina, whose long-standing status as a much-loved Spanish middleweight was reason enough for its presence tonight.

La Folia Folio by Bryan Johanson is a recent work comprising some thirty contemporary variations on a universally known theme. Not music to stir the deeper emotions, but erudite entertainment for players with the skill to negotiate its many hazards, one such player being Michael Partington.

Thirty years ago, any guitarist of Partington's calibre would surely have been destined for a very high profile career. In today's competitive climate, it is to be hoped that his considerable talents still gain the recognition they deserve.





Soundboard,
Volume XXV, No. 3, Winter 1999 (James Reid)

The most impressive aspect of this debut recording is the musical maturity that Partington demonstrates throughout all twenty tracks. Beginning with a convincing performance of Torroba's Sonatina, Partington proceeds throughout the Martin, Ponce, Kohkin and Britten with an unerring sense of phrasing and a strong musical sense. The only criticism I have is for the guitar and not the performer; there was a disturbing tendency for the basses to sound dull --this is particularly noticeable in passages such as the beginning of the Martin Prelude and the second variation of the Britten. The performance which best displays Partington's strengths on this disc is "The Usher Waltz." He interprets it with great dynamic breadth, variety of timbre, and deft phrasing. Partington is a guitarist to keep an eye on. Now that he has demonstrated his mastery of the standard repertoire, I hope he will explore less-traveled paths in the future.





Tri-Cities Guitar Society,
May 1999 (Markus Hoffman)

With his first trip to the Tri-Cities Michael Partington has already won the hearts of all who experienced him not only as a professional performer but also as a teacher and "missionary" of the classical guitar. One hundred fifty Christ the King grade school students and the Richland High School's guitar music class had the unique educational opportunity to learn about the classical guitar from Partington. His inspirational playing and story-telling left them fascinated and awestruck, and he achieved a similar effect with the audience that attended his world-class caliber concert. From the first to the last minute, his marvelous virtuosity and musicality sustained an intense bond with the audience. Partington's concert program covered almost the entire classical guitar history, beginning with 16th century compositions from John Dowland and ending with La Folia Folio from contemporary composer Bryan Johnson. Partington played Mauro Giuliani's Rossinaine on an authentic reproduction of a 19th century guitar, which added educational value to the concert. Partington taught a master class the day after his concert. During the class, he also proved to be an effective teacher. He patiently provided down-to-earth instructions that offered invaluable help and guidance for the playing of the local guitar enthusiasts. Thank you Michael Partington for a memorable visit! Thanks also to Shalom United Church of Christ for the use of their worship hall that has great acoustics perfectly suited for the classical guitar.





Soundboard,
Summer 1999 Northwest Guitar Festival Review (excerpt by Tom Baker)

One of the week's most impressive concerts was given by Michael Partington, who was last year's 1st prize winner in the Northwest Guitar Festival Competition. He balances a very strong technique with conviction. Partington's technical and musical abilities were best showcased in his interpretations of two contemporary works: Five Impromptus by Bennett and the Usher Waltz by Nikita Koshkin. This concert also featured the festival's only world premiere, a work of mine entitled Possible Lullabies, which received an excellent performance by Partington and soprano Katy Greenleaf.



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