Classical and Opera Reviews

Stotijn/Padmore/Drake @ Wigmore Hall, London

28 October 2011


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 Mondays singing, Fridays recital was at least blessedly free of irrelevant interludes.

The programme might be described as heavy a Schumann cycle, a Britten canticle and a Janček mini-opera is not a prospect calculated to appeal to the faint of heart, but then thats hardly what the Wigmore is about. Jančeks 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 Schumanns 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 Drakes ever-attentive playing.

Canticle II: Abraham and Isaac Op. 51 is one of Brittens greatest works, and this evenings performance did it justice. Framed by the other-worldly (naturally) incantation of Gods command, set against the pianos rippling E flat major chords, the narrative never ceased to grip, especially during Isaacs frightened pleas and Abrahams 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



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