Clive Paget

Clive Paget

Clive was Editor of Limelight magazine from 2015 to 2017, when he moved to New York and became Editor at Large. Clive writes features and reviews on a wide range of musical topics, but is especially enthusiastic about all things to do with opera, early music and British classical music. From his New York base he is able to interview artists scheduled to tour in Australia and keep abreast of the latest developments internationally.

Articles by Clive Paget

May 31, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg

Among the more daring projects underway for the Wagner centenary is Dutch-based PentaTone’s plan to record Wagner’s ten later operas on SACD, all from concert performances and all conducted by seasoned Wagnerian Marek Janowski. Following a superb sonic rendition of The Flying Dutchman last year, here we have Die Meistersinger, to be followed rapidly by Parsifal next month. Wagner’s comic masterpiece can be a hard act to pull off, requiring dramatic singers with stamina who can act with a lightness of touch when required. Quite a feat, and one that nearly comes off here, if not quite. First, the pluses. The sonic engineering is superb – not quite as orchestrally revelatory as the Dutchman but you’ll be hard pressed to find a better sounding opera recording. Albert Dohmen as Hans Sachs is also mightily impressive, firm of tone and offering great textual insight into this multifaceted character. Edith Haller’s Eva is charming and Dietrich Henschel makes Beckmesser a formidable rival, if pushed at the very top of the voice. The sense of ensemble is also excellent with fine chorus work and a great sense of occasion, all moving forward swimmingly in Janowski’s pacey reading. It’s the two tenors who let…

May 8, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: Helden (Klaus Florian Vogt, Deutsche Oper Berlin/Schneider)

“Klaus Florian Vogt is Bayreuth’s leading tenor – he has a unique voice, perfect technique and last but not least the perfect look for a leading man in the works of Wagner.” Thus the marketing hype for the Sony debut of the latest heldentenor held up as the great white hope. Having enjoyed his performance as the Prince on a recent Rusalka DVD, I wish I could respond more positively to what is on offer here. Vogt kicks off with an aria from Der Freischütz – not a bad choice.  The voice is light but well suited to Weber (if occasionally phrases droop below the note). Mozart and Lortzing also sit comfortably in his clean, high, lyrical voice although here, as elsewhere, a shortage of engagement with the texts bedevil the performance.  The major problems lie with Wagner. His Lohengrin has been praised in some quarters, but the “detached quality” of the Grail-knight, that some have described as other-worldly, feels to me simply a “detached quality”. His Winterstürme is similarly passionless, while his prize song comes across as a pretty enough lied but it doesn’t really sound like the reward is worth the winning. The orchestral support from the Berlin Opera…

April 26, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: The Flute King – Music for Frederick the Great (Emmanuel Pahud)

This year marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of that gifted flautist, composer and enlightened patron of the arts, King Frederick the Great of Prussia. To celebrate, Emmanuel Pahud presents a 2-CD set of works by the glittering circle of musicians that Frederick gathered about him in Berlin. He kicks off with what is probably the most impressive work on the disc, one of CPE Bach’s most magnificent concertos, which shows the forward-looking qualities that make him the most interesting composer of the period. We then have charming works by Benda, Quantz and a promising example by the royal master himself. All are delightful. The second CD is even better, its more intimate chamber works ranging from a Trio Sonata from JS Bach’s Musical Offering through to two compelling sonatas from Bach’s eldest son. Frederick’s contribution is complemented by that of his (more talented?) sister, Anna Amalia, Princess of Prussia. It goes without saying that Pahud, principal flautist with the Berlin Philharmonic, shines throughout and although he eschews a period instrument his style is perfectly tempered to the performance practice of the day. The Kammerakademie Potsdam provides spirited support, led by the excellent Trevor Pinnock on harpsichord.

April 12, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: SERAPH (trumpet: Alison Balsom; BBC Scottish SO/Renes)

Recent years have seen a renaissance of interest in the solo trumpet with a good handful of players reaching out beyond the Haydn and Hummel to explore more challenging contemporary repertoire. Philippe Shartz ensured a limited market for his brave foray by including Birtwistle’s demanding Endless Parade on his excellent Chandos album, but here Alison Balsom plays a safer hand with equal success in a program of edgy yet approachable “modern” works. The appetiser and title work is James MacMillan’s Seraph, a piece dedicated to Balsom, which wittily misquotes the opening of the Haydn concerto before taking us on an involving neo-classical journey. The main course, however, is a pair of tangy, postwar works from either side of the iron curtain. The Arutiunian concerto with its attractive Armenian inflections has had several outings on CD and here proves as engaging as ever. The discovery for me was the 15-minute rhapsody by the German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann. Like Tippett in A Child Of Our Time, Zimmermann uses a spiritual, in this case Nobody Knows De Trouble I See as a metaphor for the need for racial understanding. It’s a beautiful work, as finely calculated as a Hopper painting and like…

February 9, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: HANDEL: Agrippina (Akadamie fur Alte Musik Berlin/Jacobs)

Agrippina, third wife of the Emperor Claudius, placed her son Nero on the throne after poisoning her husband with mushrooms. Her ungrateful offspring then had her hacked to death after she survived a rigged boating accident. So, not exactly Comedy Tonight from Handel then? Wrong. This 1709 work written for Venice is one of the funniest “parody” operas around.  The plot concerns the scheming matriarch’s attempts to have her son declared Claudius’s successor over the virtuous Ottone. Nerone, however, is focused solely on his passion for Poppea. She, of course, is in love with Ottone while pursued by the randy but foolish Emperor. A sort of Carry On Claudius thus ensues. A Handel opera from René Jacobs is always an event and this recording is a veritable cracker. Alexandrina Pendatchanska is a knockout as the wicked Empress, sometimes a railing harpy full of vocal fireworks, other times a wheedling manipulator of her doltish husband. Jennifer Rivera has a ball as the petulant Nerone, while Sunhae Im is a charming Poppea. Countertenor Bejun Mehta gives us a beautifully sung Ottone, raising this secondary role to something like the hero of the piece. Marcos Fink does a resonant turn as the bumbling…

February 8, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: Homage To Paderewski (piano: Jonathan Plowright)

It seems hard to countenance today but in 1941 it was possible for a man to pass into legend who was not only a composer and the highest-paid musician of his day but also the Prime Minister of his country. The country in question was Poland; the man: Ignacy Jan Paderewski. As a tribute to his charismatic genius, boosey and Hawkes commissioned an anthology from 17 of the leading contemporary composers, which forms the starting point for this fascinating CD. The line-up of the great and the good forms a curious state-of-the-nation snapshot of music in the midst of WWII, for all of the composers were resident in North America at the time – some unable to return to their homelands. Represented here with distinction we find Bartók (cheating with the rehashed Three Hungarian Folk-Tunes), Milhaud, Castelnuovo-Tedesco (a charming mazurka), Goossens (a clever Homage based on Chopin’s C-minor Prelude), Martinu (another tangy mazurka) and even Britten, although the latter misunderstood the commission and composed a melancholy piece for two pianos. It’s good to see Australian-born Arthur Benjamin contributing an impressive, wistful Elegiac Mazurka. My personal favourite among many unknown gems was Stojowski’s delicate Cradle Song. The excellent british pianist Jonathan…

February 1, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: BEETHOVEN: The Symphonies; Overtures (Gewandhaus/Chailly)

Interesting historical fact: In 1825, Johann Schultz and the Gewandhaus Orchestra presented the very first complete cycle of the Beethoven symphonies, a tradition followed by Schultz’s Leipzig successors which have included luminaries such as Mendelssohn, Furtwängler and Masur. Thus, with this new cycle under maestro Riccardo Chailly on Decca, it is fair to say that these works are pretty much “in the blood”. In fact, to sum up this beautifully presented 5-CD set, it is a rather brilliant fusion of the old and the new. The traditional element is immediately evident in the sound. The Leipzig strings offer a rich, beefy timbre while the brass is bright and punchy, though never vulgar. All of this is captured in a state-of-the-art recording of tremendous depth. The new is represented in the playing style – strings eschewing unnecessary vibrato, delicate woodwind – but especially in the tempi. Chailly observes Beethoven’s markings to the letter so we have some very fast movements indeed. The beauty is that the orchestra is so fleet of foot that detail is seldom sacrificed in the interests of speed. These unmannered readings allow Beethoven to speak for himself in exceptional versions of the Second, Third, Eighth and Ninth…

January 25, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: ARRIVEDERCI (Vittorio Grigolo t; Orch del Teatro Regio di Parma/Morandi)

It’s a brave man who steps into the shoes recently vacated by “Big Lucy” and certainly no one could accuse Vittorio Grigolo of timidity. For his second Sony album, the former Sistine Chapel choirboy with the matinee idol looks has nailed his colours firmly to the mast with a selection of popular arias and Italian song. In his sleeve note Grigolo cites Gigli’s influence but also, tellingly, popular tenor Claudio Villa. So how does it stack up? First off, the opera: Grigolo certainly has all the notes. He also has a fast, but not intrusive vibrato. My two quibbles concern a tendency to be below the note at medium volume and another to scoop up to notes in the upper part of his voice. Listen to his La Donna E Mobile for an example of what I mean. This is a pity as he is a good vocal actor and he tops it off with a terrific bravura high B. Elsewhere he offers us a most sensitive Lamento Di Federico from Cilea’s L’Arlesiana, proving that with a little control he can manage any vocal waywardness. Where this CD really takes off, though, is with the “popular” songs. Here Grigolo has…

January 9, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: HAYDN: L’Anima del filosofo, Orpheus and Eurydice (Pinchgut Opera)

Haydn’s much-feted sojourn in London in 1791 was the occasion for the writing of his final opera, based on Ovid’s treatment of the Orpheus myth. Alas, operatic politics at the Haymarket meant that the first staging had to wait until 1951 with no less a leading lady than Maria Callas. Since then, revivals have been patchy so we must thank Sydney-based Pinchgut Opera for this live recording. Antony Walker and the excellent Orchestra of the Antipodes give the best reading of the score since Doráti. Dramatic pacing is spot on with sprightly tempi and fine instrumental contributions to Haydn’s ambitious orchestration, while Cantillation offer characterful singing. Elena Xanthoudakis has a light, pretty voice, able to cope with the flashy coloratura in both her roles – the Sybil’s showcase aria rightly brings the house down. It’s a pity that in her lower register she falls short of her recorded rival, Bartoli. Derek Welton offers fine support as her father, Creonte; his vengeance aria is particularly effective. Only the fluttery tenor of Andrew Goodwin lets the side down, struggling with coloratura and lacking power low in the voice. The CD also misses a certain depth, perhaps a consequence of the live recording. Nevertheless,…

November 3, 2011
CD and Other Review

Review: HANDEL: Ariodante (Joyce DiDonato; Il Complesso Barocco/Curtis)

Despite its rather bizarre Scottish setting, Ariodante is one of Handel’s more convincing opera seria with a plot lifted from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. No magic here, no cross-dressing – just a highly effective tale of love, jealousy and betrayal. As a result it has held its own on the stage and there are fine recordings against which to measure this newcomer. Alan Curtis has had a long, perhaps hit-and-miss career championing lesser-known Handel, but in this case I am pleased to announce a palpable hit. Il Complesso Barocco is in excellent form with vigorous but flexible tempi and ravishing orchestral colour. And this recording is blessed with no less than three quite perfect female voices. Heading the list is probably the greatest Handel mezzo of today: Joyce DiDonato in superlative voice, thrilling in attack and responsive to text. Her great Act 2 aria, Scherza infida, is utterly riveting and most moving. The other cast members are not overshadowed in the slightest. Ginevra is given an intense and elegant reading by the remarkable Karina Gauvin, bringing a refreshing depth to her character, while the insinuating Polinesso is sung with great panache by silky-toned contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux. There are excellent performances too…