Mark Padmore/Prussia Cove | Classical review

St George's, Bristol

Cornish beauty spot Prussia Cove is also noted for its international musical seminars, originally established by the violinist Sándor Végh. Out of those sprang the chamber-music sessions where the musically wise and the wising-up play side-by-side, with public concerts following on naturally.

Working with tenor Mark Padmore surely gave optimum experience for this year's alumni. His singing of song cycles by Fauré and Vaughan Williams was, as ever, revelatory; but, with Padmore, it's not simply the impeccable enunciation bringing words so vibrantly alive, it's the vocal colour and inflections that carry the distinctive aura of the individual composer. Against the relative austerity of St George's, Fauré's setting of Verlaine's La Bonne Chanson – in his own arrangement for string quartet, double bass and piano – took on an almost voluptuous beauty, with the muted strings in La Lune Blanche reflecting an iridescent sheen.

If the spirit of Ravel hovered lightly here, it did so again in Vaughan Williams's On Wenlock Edge. Yet this setting of poems by AE Housman embraced a different expressive tone, often heartbreaking with Atar Arad's viola lines plaintively echoing the vocal line.

Earlier, the ensemble had performed Arad's own cycle Listen, setting words by WS Merwin, at its most arresting in the very opening where the strings' apparently random tunings are quelled by Padmore's shouting: "Listen!" Matthew McDonald, principal bass of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, had joined Young Concert Artists Trust cellist Philip Higham to make of Rossini's Duetto a polished little gem, with Schumann's Märchenerzählungen completing a unusual, but finally satisfying programme.


Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

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