Edinburgh Festival Fringe music review: Classical Guitar – Jonathan Prag, reviewed by The Scotsman’s David Kettle
Even in these early days of the festival, a simple show can feel so refreshing. Classical guitarist Jonathan Prag is a Fringe stalwart, and his daily lunchtime solo recital feels a bit like a cool breeze of sanity amid the Edinburgh mayhem.
That’s not to say Prag is unambitious: he delivers a wide-ranging programme, journeying from music by 17th-century blind Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan through to a flashy showpiece from the 1980s by Russian composer Nikita Koshkin. But it’s the quiet authority with which he plays, and his natural, unforced musicality, that mark his show out.
He gives gentle but characterful accounts of two tunes by O’Carolan, and picks out voices sensitively in a rippling Bach Fugue and Allegro. His command of tone colour is impressive in Barrios’s La Catedral, especially a beautifully fluid transition into ringing harmonics, and he ends his programme with a nicely characterful Suite del Recuerdo by José Luis Merlin, providing poignant perspectives on the work’s shifting moods and dance rhythms, put together in memory of the Disappeared of Argentina.
It’s Koshkin’s fiery, Poe-inspired Usher Waltz that’s most impressive though, slowly fracturing and disintegrating a piquant waltz tune with all manner of grotesque effects, and drawing Prag’s most extrovert performance.
Elsewhere, his playing can be a bit self-effacing, even undemonstrative, but there’s no doubting his technical dexterity nor his intense focus, and he has an easy, natural way of talking to his audience.
For an hour of calm, thoughtfulness and, yes, maybe a bit of introspection, Prag offers something quite special.
C too (Venue 4), Until 31 August, 1:05pm / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 8 August
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