London-born tenor Mark Padmore’s superb technical accomplishment almost goes without saying, and it was well in evidence in his characteristically intelligent Edinburgh International Festival recital, which kicked off with Beethoven establishing the song cycle as a genre in An Die Ferne Geliebte, and ended with Schubert’s final example of the form – Schwanengesang, which isn’t even a real song cycle at all.
Star rating: ****
Venue: Queen’s Hall
But what made the recital so special was Padmore’s remarkable emotional subtlety and his revelatory sense of storytelling – time and again he’d sing as if he were discovering a song’s meaning, along with his listeners, as he sang through it.
He kept a lid on the intensity for the most part, even occasionally exchanging the odd smile with the audience, but power and turmoil were always simmering under the surface, exploding through in a gripping Der Atlas and Aufenthalt in Schwanengesang.
And he dared to be simple in that cycle’s two most famous songs, with an elegant, mellifluous Ständchen and a wonderfully direct Der Doppelgänger that grew and grew until its full existential horror was finally revealed.Playing a beautifully sonorous US fortepiano modelled after Conrad Graf, South African keyboard player Kristian Bezuidenhout was surprisingly unobtrusive, but always highly sensitive and powerful when he needed to be – alongside Padmore’s subtle artistry, a model combination.