Mark Padmore/Paul Lewis review – passion and intoxication let rip

St George’s, Bristol
This lieder recital of Heine and Goethe set to Schumann and Schubert allowed the tenor and pianist to surge with and cede to the poets’ bliss and longing

In this lieder recital by tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis, the starting point was not the composers but the poets, with the evening’s two halves devoted to settings of Heinrich Heine and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe respectively.

First came Schumann’s Liederkreis Op 24, dating from 1840, the year of his marriage to Clara and thus his year of song. Heine’s nine poems do not exactly constitute bliss – too much death and tombstones for that – yet Schumann’s outpouring of passion is unmistakable. Often it is the final surge which comes in the wonderful piano postludes that so distinguishes the songs and Padmore and Lewis’s sensitivity in ceding or taking up the emotional momentum gave an added integrity, culminating in Mit Myrten und Rosen.

Brahms too adored Clara Schumann and his settings of Heine were also effectively love letters: in Meerfahrt, in particular, his experience of love, apparently so close yet in reality unattainable, had an injured resignation. In Schubert’s settings of Goethe, again, it was the drifting between joy and pain that Padmore coloured with his precise weighting of words. But, if the mood in St George’s had until this point seemed relatively restrained, the vigour of the last Schubert song, An Schwager Kronos, led well into that of the final sequence by Hugo Wolf. This is not obvious Padmore territory but, beginning with Der Rattenfänger, Hamelin’s Pied Piper, he and Lewis upped the whole dynamic and the volume with it. Going on to characterise boldly Wolf’s settings from Goethe’s West–östlicher Divan, and their intoxication of love, poetry and wine, any aura of austerity was dispelled. Instead, there was a distinct feeling of the music demanding its performers let rip and of them doing just that.


Rian Evans

The GuardianTramp

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