Friday 23 July 2021

Seven Ages: Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Julius Drake, Victoria Newlyn at Temple Music

Titian: Three Ages of Man (image from
Titian: Three Ages of Man (image from

Seven Ages
- Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Fauré, Poulenc, RVW, Bridge, Clarke, Butterworth, Gurney, Ives, Barber, Copland, Purcell; Mark Padmore, Roderick Williams, Victoria Newlyn, Julius Drake; Temple Music at Middle Temple Hall

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 21 July 2021 Star rating: 5.0 (★★★★★)
The seven ages of man bring Temple Music's season to a magical close with a wide-ranging recital

The final concert in Temple Music's season on Wednesday 21 July 2021 represented at return to Middle Temple Hall with a live audience for a recital themed on the Seven Ages of Man by tenor Mark Padmore, baritone Roderick Williams and pianist Julius Drake with reader Victoria Newlyn. The programme made no explicit reference to our current situation, yet the way the music and readings reflected on the human experience from Shakespeare's mewling and puking infant right through that haunting image of 'Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything', made you reflect. The programme played without breaks for applause, allowing the sequence of words and music to unfold with some intriguing inclusions and thoughtful juxtapositions, with composers ranging from Schubert, Schumann and Brahms, to Fauré and Poulenc, to RVW, Bridge, Butterworth, and Britten, to Ives, Barber and Copland, ending with Purcell's Evening Hymn.

We began, of course, with Jacques speech from Shakespeare's As You Like It, leading to RVW's Blake setting Infant Joy the sheer spareness of having the oboe part played on the piano moved the focus onto Mark Padmore's voice with its variety of colours and his emphasis on text. From wonder we moved to the intimacy of Roderick Williams story telling in Schubert's Der Vater mit dem Kind, the not quite rocking motion in the piano linking to another Blake setting, Rebecca Clarke's Cradle Song (sung by Padmore), lyrical yet with twists to the harmony reflecting the twists in the words. Williams' appealing account of Copland's Little Horses brought out the folk-ish elements to the song. These were linked by words from the comedy of Thom Gunn's Baby Song and A A Milne's The End to the more serious from Don Paterson and Carol Ann Duffy.

The whining schoolboy began with Padmore in miraculous form in Britten's Midnight on the Great Western (from Winter Words), vividly done with the metaphysical element in the second half of the song really lifting us elsewhere, and Padmore followed this with the wonderfully vivid Soutar setting, A Black Day from Britten's Who are these children? Readings include Paul Henry on a boy's transformation at the barber and Emily Dickinson. And this group ended, rather surprisingly, with Schubert's Der Pilgrim, with the journeying of the piano rhythms counterpointed by Williams' confiding tone which really grabbed you leading to the mystical end (to childhood?), which was counterpointed by an enormously thoughtful Cecil Day Lewis reading of a mother remembering her son's first football match.

Schubert's glorious Goethe setting, Willkommen und Abschied launched the lover, both Padmore and Drake urgent and vivid, always pressing on to that moment of passion. Schumann's Widmung came next, beautifully shaped by Williams yet with a sense from both him and Drake that the poet is so carried away he can't stop. Padmore's account of Fauré's Donc ce sera par un clair jour d'été created another outpouring of lyrical intensity counterpointed with a complex harmonic web in the piano, and we ended insouciantly with RVW's It was a lover and his lass sung by both Padmore and Williams.

The second half began with the prologue from Shakespeare's Henry V, 'All the world's a stage', vividly launching the soldier, yet counterpointed by intense poignancy of Butterworth's Lads in their Hundreds and Ives' haunting Tom Sails Away, with Williams frank and approachable in the first whilst the second seemed as if he really was remembering the event of his brother going to war. We ended this group with Poulenc's Bleuet, sweetly disturbing with Padmore bringing an edge to the lyricism. Readings moved from a striking piece of WB Yeats to Chidiock Tichborne's rather grim Elegy

The justice began, intriguingly with Padmore Fauré's Prison, a lovely fluid and intense setting of Verlaine (which the poet wrote in prison hence the song's name), then Williams as RVW's sophisticated yet swaggering Vagabond, frankly confiding and mesmerising. Schumann's duet Herbslied and Brahms' darkly serious Mit vierzig Jahren, from Williams, brought another aspect to the group of songs whilst Britten's setting of WH Auden, As it is, Plenty from On This Island was more pointed with cabaret-ish hints. Readings here moved from Cavafy's intriging Ithaka to the funny, wise and touching On his Baldness by Po Chu-i!

For the sixth age, the slippered pantaloon, we returned to Brahms, with another duet Phänomen, about a spry old man loving which constrasted with the sad end of Barber's Bessie Bobtail, beautifully rendered by Padmore. For readings we had Gwendolyn Brooks and further Cavafy. 

The final age began with Frank Bridge's Journey's End, a haunting question and answer between father and son which was both terrific and ultimately unnerving, why don't we know the song better! Then a short but pointed reading of Raymond Carver and finally Purcell's An Evening Hymn (in Britten's realisation, I think) sung by both singers, at first alternim and then together in the Alleluias. Completely magical.

The evening brought an intriguing contrast in approach from the two singers, each giving their own personality and yet the whole creating a striking synthesis which worked well as a journey through life. Victoria Newlyn brought an element of drama to each of the readings, creating vivid vignettes which seemed often to arise out of the song. Julius Drake, as ever, made a sympathetic partner and guide on the journey, deftly moving between styles and providing a further characterful voice.

Never miss out on future posts by following us

The blog is free, but I'd be delighted if you were to show your appreciation by buying me a coffee.

Elsewhere on this blog
  • The Call: six young artists showcased in the first recital disc from Momentum  - record review
  • Encounters: York Early Music Festival with Tudor motets, Elizabethan viol music, baroque cantatas and the madrigal re-imagined  - review
  • Young contemporary composers to late Haydn: London Oriana Choir at Opera Holland Park - concert review
  • Real intimacy: Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady in a concert staging at The Grange Festival - review
  • She loves writing whatever she is writing at the time: I chat to composer Cheryl Frances-Hoad about being associate-composer of the Oxford Lieder Festival - interview
  • Landscapes, Song Cycles and Folk Songs: the songs of Alun Hoddinott from Claire Booth, Nicky Spence, Jeremy Huw Williams, Andrew Matthews-Owen on Naxos - record review
  • Enjoyable, rare and marvellous: Lully's Ballet royal de la Naissance de Vénus from Les Talens Lyriques  - record review
  • Music to be heard at close quarters in a private chamber: Concerts à deux violes esgales from Sainte-Colombe and Marais - record review
  • Breaking new ground: Paul Whittaker OBE & Rebecca Meltzer on plans for production of Humperdinck's Hansel & Gretel at Waterperry Opera Festival to be in a bilingual format for Deaf, Hard of Hearing and Hearing audiences of all ages and backgrounds - article
  • Dr Bluebeard will see you now: Gothic Opera remakes Bartok's opera and sets it in an Edwardian sanatorium - opera review
  • Rhythm pitch and tension: composer Graham Fitkin chats about his 1990 album of multi-piano music Flak which has just been digitally remastered  - interview
  • An engaging journey: La Folia from Ensemble La Notte, the young period instrument ensemble takes us on a journey through chaos and the bizarre in Baroque music - record review
  • Wonderfully satisfying: a very stylish production of Rossini's La Cenerentola at The Grange Festival - opera review
  • Home

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular Posts this month