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S & H Recital Review

Tippett, Schubert, Wolf: Mark Padmore, Roger Vignoles, Wigmore Hall, Monday June 3rd 2002. (ME)


It was surprising to find that this was Mark Padmore’s solo Wigmore debut, and perhaps even more surprising to hear this much – recorded, experienced, handsomely greying thirty-something gentleman described as ‘one of our brightest young up – and – coming singers.’ I think it’s safe to assume that Mr. Padmore has well and truly arrived, and this recital provided much pleasure with a well planned programme sung and played with commitment and panache.

Tippett’s ‘Boyhood’s End’ is not the easiest piece with which to launch a recital, with its cantata style and dramatically varying sentiments, but Padmore and Vignoles rose to most of the challenges, with only the more florid, Purcellian lines proving a little anxious for the tenor. The following Schubert group found him much more at home, especially in ‘Die Gotter Griechenlands’ and ‘Der Jungling und der Tod.’ The former is one of the treasures of the repertoire and just about everyone seems to have presented it here over the past year, but Padmore and Vignoles managed to make it sound fresh and newly sharp in its evocation of a sense of longing for a lost age; Vignoles’ playing is always a model of sensitivity and here he rendered those hesitant – sounding phrases with touching grace, and Padmore’s ‘Wo bist du?’ gave just the right sense of wistfulness without becoming arch or overblown.

Padmore’s voice is beautiful, often sweet in tone and used with musicianship and intelligence, but to my ears it lacks individuality and pathos, and when he sings the more dramatic parts of the repertoire I do not find him sufficiently engaging, but his final selection here was quite a daring one for a solo debut and did reveal a side to him of which I was previously unaware. The lady who provided the commentary for Radio 3 listeners had apparently never before heard of this group of Wolf songs, but of course to anyone intimate with the Lieder repertoire they are familiar gems, especially in Fischer – Dieskau’s highly individual recording. I was surprised at how much weight Padmore’s voice can show, and how effectively he handled the rumbustious, rollicking motion of the music, especially in the closing lines of ‘Trunken mussen wir alle sein’ – his diction in the almost impossibly fast ‘was in der Schenke waren heute’ was also exemplary. Vignoles’ performance of Wolf’s most challenging postludes was sheer joy; the whirling, stomping or reeling phrases, sometimes dancing, sometimes drunken, were played with the sort of élan that makes you want to stand up and cheer, and Padmore rightly recognized this.

The hall was only half full on this Bank Holiday Monday, but the reception given was genuinely warm, and was rewarded with a beautiful performance of Wolf’s setting of ‘Ganymed,’ an appropriate conclusion since we had heard Schubert’s version earlier in the programme.


Melanie Eskenazi

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