Saturday, 16 January 2010

Mark Padmore's Britten in Vienna

British tenor Mark Padmore, accompanied by Julius Drake on the piano and Stefan Dohr on the horn, performed at the Mozart Saal of the Vienna Konzerthaus yesterday evening.

Padmore's atmospheric rendering of Still falls the Rain, Benjamin Britten's Canticle III op. 55 (1954) (text: Edith Sitwell), deserves a special mention. This was a flawless performance of a great poem. In fact it was much more. "This is beyond what we expected!" and "Festival material!" were typical of the enthusiastic remarks to be heard during the interval. Like many others, I was so carried away, that I rushed downstairs to buy a Mark Padmore cd! The one I selected was 'Songs in Time of War', a collection of poems by Vikram Seth, based on ancient Chinese poems by Du Fu (712-770AD), and now set to music by Alec Roth (label: signum classics).

The second half of the concert featured more music from Britten, the most important composer of the 20th century in Poet-in-Residence's humble opinion. Of the 6 Hölderlein Fragments the last, Die Linien des Lebens was especially moving. Several Franz Schubert Lieder followed; including Die Forelle and Auf dem Strom. But the highlight for me was the Hector Berlioz extra - the title of which I, unfortunately, didn't catch.

According to programme notes it was in 1985, almost 25 years ago, that Mark Padmore made his debut and also on the same night last performed at the Vienna Konzerthaus. The Liederabend audience, charmed by Mark Padmore's technical skills; his expressive note-perfect voice, his friendly and easy-going communicative manner, his choice of material, are hoping it won't be too long before he returns to the Mozart Saal to delight them all once more.

from Canticle III - Still falls the rain

Still falls the Rain -
Dark as the world of man, black as our loss -
Blind as the ninteen hundred and forty nails
Upon the Cross.
Still falls the Rain
With a sound like the pulse of the heart that is changed to the
In the Potter's Field, and the sound of the impious feet
On the Tomb:
Still falls the Rain
In the Field of Blood where the small hopes breed and the
human brain
Nurtures its greed, that worm with the brow of Cain.
Still falls the Rain
At the feet of the Starved Man hung upon the Cross

Edith Sitwell


  1. I am a fan of Britten too Poet. In my singing days he was one of my favourite composers of choral music - I love his Ceremony of Carols - love his operas too. He was an interesting man altogether.
    Also like the Edith Sitwell poem - she is not a poet one hears much about these days. Whenever I go to Sedbergh I look in the bookshops for poetry books to add to my collection - shall put her on my list.

  2. Weaver, I know you like Harrison Birtwistle too. Mark Padmore played in Birtwistle's 'The Corridor' at Bregenz (Aut) last year but sadly I missed it. gives details of his 2010 programme which includes for instance Britten's 'Les Illuminations'. Some of the venues are not too far away from you.


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