Padmore/Britten Sinfonia – review

West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge

Tenor Mark Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia are regular collaborators, and their latest project is an all-English sequence of song and string works centred upon Finzi and Purcell. Finzi's cantata Dies Natalis is the main work in the programme, though apparently not all of the venues on the orchestra's tour wanted that work, and in those places the programme includes Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Torn and Strings instead. They are missing something very special, though, for their account of Dies Natalis is exceptional, a reminder that this setting of poems by Thomas Traherne is one of the masterpieces of 20th-century English music.

Previous generations of tenors have tended to treat Finzi's ecstatic word setting cautiously, keeping their emotional distance, bleaching their tone, and making the whole thing rather churchy. Even if a few of his emphases were mannered, Padmore made it much more warmly expressive, the childhood innocence and wonder of the texts joyously conveyed, and the balance between voice and strings ideal, though three Purcell songs (edited by Tippett and arranged for string orchestra by John Woolrich) fared slightly less well.

The rest of the concert was superbly played by the Britten Sinfonia. Tippett's Little Music is heard much less often than his two larger-scale string-orchestra works, while Walton's Sonata for Strings, a late arrangement of the string quartet he wrote in the mid-1940s, runs through the familiar repertoire of Walton gestures stylishly enough. There was a newly renovated piece, too – Woolrich's Another Staircase Overture, composed for the Purcell anniversary in 1994. It's an overlong homage, stuffed with quotes and Purcellian allusions.

Broadcast on Radio 3 on Friday.

Contributor

Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Classical review: Britten Sinfonia, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
The two soloists were exemplary in an intelligent programme, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

31, Oct, 2008 @10:58 AM

Padmore/Davies/Drake – review

A strong lineup and authoritative delivery from Mark Padmore in the Five Canticles made for an intense celebration of Britten, writes Martin Kettle

Martin Kettle

03, Dec, 2012 @5:55 PM

Article image
St John Passion review – Britten Sinfonia deliver no sermons, but plenty of feeling
Mark Padmore resurrected the role of Evangelist in an experimental staging of Bach’s choral masterpiece that included compelling readings by Simon Russell Beale

George Hall

16, Apr, 2017 @1:24 PM

Article image
Philharmonia/Salonen; Britten Sinfonia, Mark Padmore; James Rhodes – review

Esa-Pekka Salonen put the icing on the Philharmonia's birthday cake, while James Rhodes tinkled Elton's ivories, writes Fiona Maddocks

Fiona Maddocks

13, Feb, 2011 @12:04 AM

Mark Padmore and Friends - review

Vignoles's sonorous piano and Padmore's ringing tenor were ideally balanced, and the words came across directly, writes Erica Jeal

Erica Jeal

01, May, 2011 @8:45 PM

Basel Chamber Orchestra/Padmore – review

Mark Padmore's lean yet forceful voice cut a swath through Britten's challenging writing, writes George Hall

George Hall

19, Jan, 2012 @6:40 PM

Mark Padmore/Paul Lewis – review
The engagement with Schubert song-cycles is of long standing: Padman may utter the words in a way that appears spontaneous, but the psychological insight is piercing, says Rian Evans

Rian Evans

01, Jun, 2011 @5:42 PM

Mark Padmore/Andrew West – review

Padmore and West judged the Dichterliebe to perfection and brought out the best in Britten and Birtwistle, writes Guy Damman

Guy Damman

14, Jun, 2013 @5:22 PM

Royal/Padmore/Vignoles | Classical review
Wigmore Hall, London
The immaculate presentation made every song a highlight, writes George Hall

George Hall

09, May, 2010 @9:00 PM

Padmore/Kashkashian/De Guise-Langlois/Biss – review

In this two-concert Schumann tribute, Jonathan Biss gave a performance of the piano work that swept all before it, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

22, Oct, 2012 @5:45 PM