Saturday, 21 September 2019

A mystical intensity: Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout in Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin

Mark Padmore, Kristian Bezuidenhout (Photo Marco Borggreve)
Mark Padmore, Kristian Bezuidenhout
(Photo Marco Borggreve)
Schubert Die schöne Müllerin; Mark Padmore, Kristian Bezuidenhout; Wigmore Hall
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 20 September 2019 Star rating: 4.5 (★★★★½)
A magical evening, voice and fortepiano in Schubert's first song-cycle

Mark Padmore returned to the Wigmore Hall on Friday 20 September 2019 to perform Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin accompanied by Kristian Bezuidenhout on fortepiano. The fortepiano in question was not credited in the programme but was a magnificent red-veneered specimen.

Having a fortepiano accompany, with its range of colours, faster decay on the strings and general lack of the super-charged volume of the modern piano, meant that Padmore could be even more daring in the extremes of expression, bringing not only a remarkable range of colour and intensity to the role but also a lovely quietness, with a remarkable use of voix mixte. In many ways this was a very interior mystical performance. And Padmore's voice still has it's strikingly mesmerising, youthful quality.

'Das Wandern' started with firm and vigorous piano, this was an energetic and youthful man, and Padmore was in real story telling mode with full use of colours in the voice and the words. The piano in 'Wohin?' was flowing, certainly, but not untroubled whilst Padmore was lyrical and confiding with a lovely way of fining his voice down. In 'Halt!' the accompaniment was full of accents; Padmore's young man was eager and inspired, but the piano seemed to say otherwise, whilst 'Danksagung an den Bach' was very tender.

'Am Feierabend' started full of vivid drama from both performers, with a change when he sings of the Miller Maid at the end of each verse, yet the final repeat seemed almost bitter. There was great simplicity from both in Der Neugierige, making each gesture tell, and then the way the brook's silence makes the fourth verse stumble into recitative, and in the last verse both performers were daringly quiet. In 'Ungeduld' the piano almost shimmered, whilst the lyrical moment of 'Dein is mein Herz' stood out from the busy chatter of the rest of the chatter of the song, each verse increasing in urgency. 'Morgengruß' by contrast was simple and touching.

In 'Des Müllers Blumen' this touching simplicity moved towards mysticism, which continued in 'Tränenregen' with its wonderful piano accompaniment. Magical. 'Mein' was full of vigour from both performers, whilst 'Pause' was very interior, intense in the directness of Padmore's performance.

' 'Mit dem grünen Lautenbande' combined Bezuidenhout's perky piano and Padmore's insouciant vocal line. 'Der Jäger' was taken at quite a lick, with Padmore becoming bitter, spitting the words out. 'Eifersucht und Stolz' was fast and vivid, alternating bitterness and tenderness. The quiet tenderness of 'Die liebe Farbe' was almost bleak, by contrast 'Die böse Farbe' was vivid, yet with tender moments. 'Trockne Blumen' was spare and almost mystical by the end of the song. 'Der Müller und der Bach' was quietly haunting, with a magical piano postlude. For 'Des Baches Wiegenlied' Padmore stood to one side of the stage, no longer the young man, quietly touching and profoundly beautiful.

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