A generous Winterreise at Wigmore Hall
Winterreise is always an experience. It is a work which always has power, both in the intensity of the storytelling and the beauty of the music. I am always surprised by how sparse and striking the score is - it always seems to belong to a different world from our own.
Mitsuko Uchida's playing was beyond beautiful from the very beginning. The music seemed to be a part of her. Her musicianship was flawless, creating a churning winter landscape full of ice and storms. Her playing never lost its relentless energy, driving the story to its inevitable conclusion. I was particularly struck by her playing in Das Wirsthaus, a song I'd never much paid attention to before. Her touch was bone-chilling, heart-breakingly lonely and bereft of comfort. Her Leiermann was without compare - the melody was fluid, but seemed perverse and otherworldly, coming from beyond our world.
As her partner, Mark Padmore sang with commitment and emotional intensity. There were truly beautiful moments between them, especially in Gefrorne Tränen and Der Lindenbaum. I wasn't sure that Padmore was always the optimal match for her precise and heart wrenching musicianship - he was self indulgent at times, pulling against her measured intense progression through the piece. I often wished he'd sing with more of his voice - he came off his instrument so frequently that it lost its emotional impact. There were times when it was truly beautiful, but it became a little unsurprising and also wasn't always completely in the centre of the pitch.
However, the cycle suited Padmore very well: he has a beautiful silvery colour in the top of his voice and an emotional intensity that serve the music well. Uchida played sensitively and with passion - she was liquid and solid all at once, shaping every moment of the music with an intensity of beauty I've rarely heard.
Both performers donated their time for this performance as part of the Wigmore Hall's fundraising efforts for 2019. It was extraordinary to consider that such successful artists were sharing their passion for Schubert, but also their love for the extraordinary space that is the Wigmore Hall. There was a generosity in the space, both from audience and performer, that made it a truly special evening to be a part of. We need venues like the Wigmore - small, intimate spaces for performers and audiences to connect on a deeper level. Spaces which are adventurous with their programming, filling the hall with unusual works by composers both famous and not. Londoners are incredibly lucky to have the Wigmore. Long may it remain a crucial part of the musical fabric of this city!