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Seen and Heard Recital Review

Schubert Die schöne Müllerin Mark Padmore (tenor); Julius Drake (piano), Wigmore Hall, Monday, January 31st, 2005 (CC)

It fell to tenor Mark Padmore to present the Miller’s daughter as part of the Wigmore’s ‘The Schubert Cycles’ series (as a BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Recital). Had he been alive, Schubert would have been 208 on this very day.

Padmore was an interesting choice as he spends much time with earlier music, having sung the Evangelist in Bach’s St John’s Passion for ENO and Jephtha (Handel) for WNO. His sound speaks of his leanings. Direct, with sparing use of vibrato, it was clear from the beginning that this was Schubert viewed from the other end; rather than looking back, as interpreters are wont to do, through the later developments of Romanticism, Padmore was happy to see this very much as ‘early’ music. The result? Refreshing, certainly, and undeniably moving in places, although whether this particular Schubertian protagonist’s quest for his Müllerin was as touching as can be the case was open to question.

Certainly the approach was clearly in evidence from the very beginning, ‘Das Wandern.’ Padmore’s lightish voice made easy work of rapid interval leaps that can in other hands sound clumsy. Julius Drake’s accompaniment was ever tasteful and very responsive to his singer’s needs. Padmore is not possessed of the world’s largest voice, and so the heavy bass left-hand for the stanza beginning, ‘Die Steine selbst so schwer sie sind’ (‘The mill-stones themselves so heavy’) was only highlighted when Padmore was silent, being instantly tamed on his entrance.

Drake is such an excellent accompanist that it is easy to sit back and enjoy his playing almost to the detriment of the singer (Imogen Cooper shares this ability to fascinate with her excellence when she accompanies). So, be it in the supremely even accompaniment to, ‘Wohin?,’ the urgent heaviness of ‘Am Feierabend’ or the light-as-air ‘Mit dem grünen Lautenbande’ or the adrenalin-stimulating, ‘Eifersucht und Stolz’ (‘Jealousy and Pride’), there was an enormous amount to admire.

Padmore’s trump card was to appear every inch the youth, carried away by the emotions of young love. Small surprise, then, that his account of ‘Mein!’ conveyed all of that youthful impetuosity (and yet retained definition in those difficult slurs), all this against Drake’s huge sound.

Lieder were intelligently segue-ed together to form groups. It was fitting that the two most memorable Lieder were the final two. The penultimate ‘Der Müller und der Bach’ was notable for the radiant rendering (from both musicians) of the Brook’s verses. The final ‘Des Baches Wiegenlied’ rocked hypnotically (and how beautiful was the line ‘In dem blauen kristallenen Kämmerlein’).

A valuable, alternative take on Müllerin.

Colin Clarke

Further Listening:

Wolfgang Holzmair, Imogen Cooper, Philips 456 851-2
Olaf Bär, Geoffrey Parsons, EMI Double Forte 5 74855-2
(c/w Winterreise)


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