A musical week which begins with Jonas Kaufmann singing ‘Cielo e Mar’ and ends with Mark Padmore in Diary of one who disappeared serves not only to show how privileged we are here in London, but to remind us of the diversity of the voice, and how narrow a term ‘tenor’ actually is. These are two great voices, both utterly in tune with their material, and although it did not have the wondrous beauty of tone of Monday’s singing, Friday’s recital was at least blessedly free of irrelevant interludes.
The programme might be described as ‘heavy’ – a Schumann cycle, a Britten canticle and a Janáček mini-opera is not a prospect calculated to appeal to the faint of heart, but then that’s hardly what the Wigmore is about. Janáček’s work tells the simple tale of a man so besotted by a forbidden love that he ‘vanishes’ from society – the composer knew all about forbidden love, and he pours his soul into these demanding, long-breathed, anguished lines. Mark Padmore has just the right febrile quality for this music, and his singing of the more lyrical passages, especially the close of VI, brought to mind that of the great Philip Langridge in his English National Opera performances. Christianne Stotijn was a suitably seductive Zefka, and Julius Drake provided superbly dramatic accompaniment.
Stotijn began the evening with a heartfelt performance of Schumann’s Liederkreis Op. 39, at times recalling Janet Baker in her directness and sensitivity. This is a very opulent voice, not always deployed with the greatest control, and she was at her best in moments such as ‘Zu mir, phantastische Nacht!’ In the slower, more meditative songs she tended to become rather monotone, the colour being supplied by Drake’s ever-attentive playing.
Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac Op. 51 is one of Britten’s greatest works, and this evening’s performance did it justice. Framed by the other-worldly (naturally) incantation of God’s command, set against the piano’s rippling E flat major chords, the narrative never ceased to grip, especially during Isaac’s frightened pleas and Abraham’s anguished struggle between paternal and dutiful love. This may not have been a programme that was always easy on the ear, but it was nevertheless an enriching experience.
Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org