Clive Paget

Clive Paget

Clive Paget is a former Limelight Editor, now Editor-at-Large. Based in New York for three years, and now in the UK, he writes and reviews as a freelancer for Musical America, Opera News and Steinway Magazine. Prior to his move to Australia he directed and developed new musical theatre for London’s National Theatre.


Articles by Clive Paget

14 January, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: Ligeti: Le Grand Macabre (La Fura Dels Baus DVD)

It’s been a long time coming but at last Ligeti’s 1978 “anti-anti-opera” Le Grand Macabre arrives on DVD in a revolutionary staging by Barcelona’s innovative urban theatre troupe, La Fura Dels Baus. Nekrotzar, the Grand Macabre of the title, arrives in Breugheland (inspired by the Dutch painter Pieter Breughel’s nightmarish visions), and announces the end of the world.  In the face of a population entirely absorbed with sex, alcohol and petty politics, however, his apocalypse fails to materialise and life goes on as before.  Very much an opera for today, I would argue. This visually compelling production was a highlight of the 2010 Adelaide Festival and has been a hit wherever it has played. We begin with a giant video image of a woman watching TV, surrounded by cigarette ends and gorging on a burger.  A sudden seizure and she falls to the floor, her atrophied body metamorphosing into a giant three-dimensional set. This massive corpse is peopled by Ligeti’s grotesque cast of characters who crawl over her flanks, make love in her eye-sockets and enter her various orifices (even at one point from out of her giant vagina). Most remarkably though, the body is used as a giant projection…

14 January, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: CPE Bach: Keyboard Sonatas Vol 2 (Danny Driver)

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach was one of the 18th century’s great musical rebels, working in a revolutionary and transitional period but destined to be overshadowed by others. History has a way of doing that to composers who don’t fit neatly into boxes. His father Johann Sebastian Bach and Mozart, geniuses both, perfectly reflect their times. Emanuel Bach may have been just as gifted, but he is neither Baroque fish nor Classical fowl and only now, it seems, are we really beginning to recognise his unique talents. Eschewing the single-emotion-per-movement model of his father’s generation, he revels in veering from one mood to another, juxtaposing introspection with temperamental outbursts and exploring divergent rhythms and quirky harmonies. Revered by Mozart, this is music that at times reaches beyond Classicism into the turbulence of Beethoven and the Romantic period. In short, CPE Bach was quite a visionary. There are four Sonatas here, the first dating from 1744 (Emanuel’s most radical period) while the latest work, a Fantasie, dates from 1787, the year before he died. The early F-Sharp Minor Sonata begins with a highly unsettling movement, playing off an unstable rhythmic motive against an endearing gallant tune. His kaleidoscopic treatment of these two…

2 November, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: Schubert: Winterreise (Florian Boesch, Malcolm Martineau)

According to Schubert’s friends, the composition of Winterreise in 1827, a year before his death, left the composer agitated and disturbed. Wilhelm Müller’s poetic journey starts with Gute Nacht, as a traveller walks away from us into a moonlit, snowy landscape. At the end of the cycle, The Signpost, he takes the path to his death. All very close to the bone for a composer with a terminal illness, and the first performance duly shocked his contemporaries. It’s good to report, then, that this superb, bold and harrowing new interpretation by the Austrian baritone Florian Boesch and English pianist Malcolm Martineau may just shock a whole new generation. There are big choices here but crucially, every moment of this intimate collaboration has been thought through. Each emotional twist and turn is presented as another step on Schubert’s solitary winter journey, from the abandoned home of his loved one to a lonely grave. Boesch may not have an idiosyncratic voice like Fischer-Dieskau or Matthias Goerne, but he certainly has an individual style and a special way with poetry. His vocal mood-swings and unprecedented use of half-tones – at times more popular songster than classical lieder singer – sets him apart from…

5 October, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: Nikolaus Harnoncourt: Walzer Revolution (Concentus Musicus Wien)

Austrian conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt has been one of classical music’s great iconoclasts now for well over 50 years. Always challenging our preconceptions, he invariably comes up with something fresh and this delightful double disc is no exception. His stated aim is to create a “revolution” in the way we listen to 19th-century dance music, and in particular the waltz which he sees as reflecting a social shift from high-brow, concert hall fare to a genuinely egalitarian music. He also makes a good case that Strauss and Lanner’s dance bands may well have outshone the Viennese court and theatre orchestras in technique and ability to master a wide repertoire. So how does he go about convincing us? First of all, he uses Concentus Musicus Wien, his own period band. That smaller, leaner string tone helps, but in addition, Harnoncourt conjures up all manner of different tones with no less than ten different types of trumpet and five different types of clarinet! In a word, he takes the “sound” seriously and I must say he has a great deal of fun along the way. His starting point is Mozart’s late dance music which frequently utilises “Turkish” instrumentation to express Austria’s confidence in…

5 October, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: MOUTON: Tu Es Petrus (The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice)

Jean Mouton (1459–1522) was a beneficed priest whose composing career developed slowly in provincial France until 1501, when he took a position in Grenoble. Spotted by Anne of Brittany, Mouton jumped ship to work in her chapel and subsequently that of her son-in-law Francis I. He was probably therefore in charge of the musical festivities when the latter monarch hosted Henry VIII on the famous Field of the Cloth of Gold. From these lofty heights he attracted the attention of the Medici Pope, Leo X and died a revered master and wealthy man at a respectable age. His most frequently recorded piece is the sublime Christmas antiphon, Nesciens Mater. The work has an instantly memorable main theme and an ingenious canonic structure, combining constraint with variety, to create one of the choral masterpieces of the 16th century. This disc, however, contains all of Mouton’s eight-part choral works in a veritable feast of polyphonic discoveries. The centrepiece is his Missa Tu es Petrus which demonstrates that while Mouton may be rhythmically uniform, “his melody flows in a supple thread,” as 16th-century music theorist Heinrich Glarean put it. Indeed, it is this tuneful quality that makes the program so beguiling – it’s not…

19 September, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: MOUTON: Tu Es Petrus (The Brabant Ensemble, Stephen Rice)

Jean Mouton (1459–1522) was a beneficed priest whose composing career developed slowly in provincial France until 1501, when he took a position in Grenoble. Spotted by Anne of Brittany, Mouton jumped ship to work in her chapel and subsequently that of her son-in-law Francis I. He was probably therefore in charge of the musical festivities when the latter monarch hosted Henry VIII on the famous Field of the Cloth of Gold. From these lofty heights he attracted the attention of the Medici Pope, Leo X and died a revered master and wealthy man at a respectable age. His most frequently recorded piece is the sublime Christmas antiphon, Nesciens Mater. The work has an instantly memorable main theme and an ingenious canonic structure, combining constraint with variety, to create one of the choral masterpieces of the 16th century. This disc, however, contains all of Mouton’s eight- part choral works in a veritable feast of polyphonic discoveries.  The centrepiece is his Missa Tu es Petrus which demonstrates that while Mouton may be rhythmically uniform, “his melody flows in a supple thread,” as 16th-century music theorist Heinrich Glarean put it. Indeed, it is this tuneful quality that makes the program so beguiling – it’s…

16 August, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: STRAUSS: Elektra (Angela Denoke, Felicity Palmer, LSO/Gergiev)

In 1910, the Band of the Grenadier Guards serenaded Her Majesty with a selection from Elektra. (George V promptly sent down a message saying he didn’t know what it was that they had just played, but it was never to be played again!) Despite the royal vote of no confidence, the opera has become a modern classic and a classic of modernism, in which Strauss went further harmonically than he would ever again.  In this live 2010 recording, the LSO’s principal conductor shows not only that he appreciates Strauss’s daring orchestrations, but also that he’s a master of the dramatic pacing in Hofmannsthal’s gripping Sophocles adaptation. The members of the orchestra play their hearts out in a finely engineered recording that, thanks to Gergiev, is frequently revelatory. Sadly, this recording has a massive drawback in the Elektra of Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet. A pronnounced vibrato across the entire range is the first problem to beset the ear. Coupled with a tendency to fall flat at the top or miss certain key notes altogether, her performance is a bit of a roadcrash. The rest of the cast ranges from superb (Dame Felicity Palmer’s baleful Clytemnestra steals the show) to acceptable (Angela Denoke’s Chrysothemis…