Mark Padmore/Paul Lewis – review

St George's, Bristol

In the interpretation of tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis of Schubert's early song-cycle masterpiece Die Schöne Müllerin, it's apparent from the opening bars that the fate of the young miller whose story it tells, is already sealed. While the voice extols the therapeutic nature of wandering free, the wheels of the mill heard in the piano reveal all too clearly his hopes eventually ground to nought. Yet Schubert's depiction of a journey from aspiring love to rejection and suicide never loses its capacity to enthrall.

The intimacy of St George's – a church whose construction parallels exactly the dates (1821-23) of poet Wilhelm Müller writing and Schubert's creation – makes it the perfect setting for lieder, and the mutual understanding of Padmore and Lewis, make them an ideal duo. In particular, they realised the resonances of the frequent changes from major to minor mode to wonderful effect.

Padmore's engagement with Schubert song-cycles is of long standing: he may utter the words in a way that appears spontaneous, but the psychological insight is piercing. The young miller – for whom read the composer – expresses himself effortlessly in music, but the strength to communicate with his loved one eludes him. Innocence and slight derangement are both present, as are passion and compassion. Padmore's articulation was, as ever, immaculate, though he only found consistent sweetness of tone in the second half of the cycle. But strategic points in the narrative were carefully weighted so as to evoke a wealth of meaning, the emotional pain gradually accumulating.

The tears that rain down in Tränenregen were the turning point; and the last stanza of the brook's lullaby, its good night whispered exactly as to a small child, came as if through a blur of tears.


Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

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