Schubert Birthday Concert

Marche caractéristique, D968b
Deutscher mit Zwei Trios und Zwei Ländler, D618
March Héroïque, D602Songs to Poems by Goethe, Mayrhofer, von Collin & Heine
Das Fischermädchen (Heine)
Ein Traumbild (Heine)
Die einsame Träne (Heine)

Mark Padmore (tenor)

Ronan Collett (baritone)

Richard Watkins (horn)

Roger Vignoles & Lindy Tennent-Brown (piano)

Reviewed by: William Yeoman

Reviewed: 31 January, 2005
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Ill health deprived us not only of Philip Langridge’s account of “Schwanengesang”, but also, due to the amended programme, the “Cantata to Salieri’s 50th-anniversary” (D441) and “Klage um Ali Bey” (D140). But one person’s loss is another’s gain, and one of Schubert’s closest friends (he was present at his deathbed) instead got a look in, with the Wigmore Hall (possibly for the first time) resounding to the wonderfully dramatic (if slightly unimaginative) settings of Heine by Franz Paul Lachner (1803-90). Convincingly sung too, by Mark Padmore, surely one of Britain’s finest tenors at the moment; in fact, Padmore sounded his best in selling these songs – I’m sure much of his Schubert could have benefited from such a robust treatment.

Following an enjoyable set of three pieces for piano/four-hands, played with panache and a good sense of fun by Roger Vignoles and the young New Zealander Lindy Tennent-Brown, Mark Padmore launched into a set of six songs (accompanied by Vignoles): a galloping “Willkommen und Abschied”, a largely delicate “Schäfers Klagenlied”, a sparkling “Ganymede” (Vignoles superb here with the animated piano part), a stormy “Der Schiffer”, “Nachtstück” beautifully meditative and with a nicely achieved pianissimo ending, and finally a rather disappointing “Nacht und Traüme”, Padmore not quite floating the tone for that all-important first swelling note. Overall, much here to admire, but perhaps just a little too refined and elegant, and dare I say it, anaemic.

Not the word you’d use to describe baritone Ronan Collett’s ‘big’ performances of the six Heine settings from “Schwanengesang”. A Wigmore Young Artist and current student of David Lowe and Iain Ledingham at the Royal Academy of Music opera programme, Collett pulled out all the stops, thereby swinging too much in the other direction to Padmore; the performances were overly theatrical and lacked subtlety. But the voice is very attractive indeed, resonant and warm. Least impressive was “Das Fischermädchen” (needing a lighter touch); most was “Der Doppelgänger” (just the right amount of melodrama).

Mark Padmore then returned, joined by Vignoles and Richard Watkins on horn, to finish the evening with Schubert’s homage to Beethoven, “Das Abendrot”. Separately all three performers were exemplary; together the balance didn’t seem right, the horn especially completely smothering Padmore’s voice in the louder passages. A less than perfect end, then, to a less than perfect if enjoyable evening’s entertainment.

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