When June’s Wigmore Hall concerts were announced one wondered if it were a misjudgment to end them with Schubert’s Winterreise. To be fair, the schedulers weren’t to know that this final concert would be a winter’s journey undertaken in a summer heatwave, but the most introspective of song-cycles nevertheless seemed a bleak message with which to close a season that was conceived affirmatively and has been widely greeted as an important act of cultural rebirth.
Not for the first time, the Wigmore’s John Gilhooly proved to be ahead of the game. Not only did Mark Padmore and Mitsuko Uchida produce the compelling account of Schubert’s 24 songs that might have been expected from them, their performance also seemed to make the larger artistic connection between the isolation at Winterreise’s core and the possibility that isolation is now to be the fate of the performing arts after the pandemic. Gilhooly’s valediction to this remarkable series of concerts that prefaced the concert seemed to suggest that isolation – if not extinction – could well be the fate of live arts without government aid.
The insights of Uchida’s poised playing were evident from the phrasing of the introductory bars to the first song Gute Nacht through to the unanswered questions of Der Leiermann at the end. Of all the great piano soloists turned accompanists in this music, she remains the most interesting.
Padmore meanwhile made this a vocal journey of existential discovery alongside a textbook lesson in dynamics and the treatment of words. His punctilious attention to detail and the clarity of his tenor sound made special highlights of songs like Frühlingstraum and Der Wegweiser, but it was the utterly serious austerity of his overall reading that gave the occasion special depth.
• On BBC Sounds and Wigmore Hall Live.