Padmore, Lewis climb Schubert's three "pinnacles"

Thu May 19, 2011 8:28am EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - When Franz Schubert died at age 31, he left not only his "Unfinished Symphony" but three song cycles so profound singers and pianists tend not to touch them until they have more years under the belt than Schubert managed.

At 50 and 38, respectively, British tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Paul Lewis feel their time has come.

"I think that they're absolute pinnacles of experience of the artistic world, they match anything else," Padmore told Reuters.

He spoke during a joint interview with Lewis at the pianist's home in the London suburbs where the pair were rehearsing songs that, in the musical sphere, get as close to the dark facets of the soul as anything Shakespeare wrote for the stage.

They've recorded all three of the cycles, "Die Schone Mullerin" (The Miller's Daughter), "Winterreise" (Winter Journey) and the one Schubert completed just before his death, "Schwanengesang" (Swan Song), for the British independent label Harmonia Mundi. "Winterreise" got a Gramophone award, the "Schwanengesang" will be released later this year.

Now they are taking the cycles on tour around Britain and continental Europe because, as Padmore put it, there are plenty of good recordings out there, but it is another thing entirely to perform them, and hear them, in the concert hall.

Here's what else they had to say about how it's possible to walk on stage night after night and sing about death and why, given the inevitable differences in opinion that arise in such intimate music, they are still on speaking terms.

Q: Paul, you've devoted much of your recent career to Beethoven, recording the 32 sonatas, the five concertos and you were the first person to play all the concertos during a BBC Proms season. Why now Schubert, the song cycles and the sonatas, which you are touring in Europe and the U.S.?   Continued...