Taking an evening off from his performance in the new Birtwistle double bill at the Linbury, Mark Padmore’s Wigmore recital with Roger Vignoles at the piano featured just two composers – Schubert, and a more recent figure who was devoted to him, Benjamin Britten.
Padmore made some interesting Schubertian choices, with unfamiliar items included among his selection of 10. To each of them the tenor brought scrupulous musicianship and genuine creative insight into both words and music, and a multidisciplinary sense of artistic purpose that enabled him to weld the two into one perfectly conjoined expressive statement.
The narrative trajectories of Atys and Ganymed were inventively charted, with a consistently varied and vivid deployment of tone. The terrible feeling of loss at the close of Strophe aus die Götter Griechenlands was far more piercing than mere nostalgia. There was a real seadog toughness to Der Schiffer – the only point in the evening when the tenor’s tone threatened to turn coarse, but maybe it was deliberate.
A later group of three more Schubert songs included an interpretation of Im Abendrot in which the golden glow of sunset was magically conjured up in Padmore’s exploration of a richer colouristic palette. Vignoles, meanwhile, was at his most sheerly delightful in Die Taubenpost, which brought the official programme to a buoyant end.
If anything, the evening’s two Britten cycles were even finer. The intricate accompaniments of the Six Hölderlin Fragments displayed Vignoles’s comprehensive technical skills, as well as his facility in articulating songs through a close attention to their dynamic structuring.
Arguably the most outstanding performance from both artists came in Britten’s Holy Sonnets of John Donne, where Padmore’s ability to communicate the metaphysical poet’s moral rigour with an almost evangelical zeal and Vignoles’s expertise in clarifying the most complex pianistic textures combined to bring out all the stern spirituality of this extraordinary piece.