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Carnegie Hall Exclusive: Q and A With Tenor Mark Padmore

As his Carnegie Hall performance with fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout approaches, British tenor Mark Padmore takes time out from his preparations to answer some questions.

Carnegie Hall: What is your first memory of Carnegie Hall?

Mark Padmore: I went to a concert with the Apollo Chamber Orchestra and Ruggiero Ricci in the mid 90s. I don't remember the concert well, but the hall was magnificent.

CH:What makes performing at Carnegie Hall special for you?

MP: The extraordinary history of the hall gives a sense of special occasion when performing there. My debut in the large hall was with Sir Simon Rattle and The Philadelphia Orchestra, and that made me very conscious of being part of a continuity of performances that stretch back well over a century. Buildings have memories, and you are very aware of all the great artists who have performed on the same stage. You receive a wonderful mix of awe, excitement, and pride.

CH: How did you choose the Schumann focus for your new album and concert program?

MP: The great starting point for lieder recitals for me is the poetry, and the songs on the new album and program are all settings of the German poet Heinrich Heine. Heine was one of the greatest of all German Romantic poets, and Schumann was responding to his verse in an immediate and heartfelt way. Both the Op. 24 Liederkreis and Op. 48 Dichterliebe were written in Schumann's "Year of Song," 1840, as outpourings of love for his bride-to-be, Clara Wieck. Although the poems are sometimes bitter and cynical about love, Schumann's music transforms them into something else—private messages about the trials and tribulations that Robert and Clara had been through in trying to get permission to marry. Schumann's songs contain some of the most personal, tender, and vulnerable music in the whole of the repertoire.

CH: What makes recitals different from opera? Does one inform the other, or are they mutually exclusive?

MP: In recitals, I believe that there is a true meeting of music and poetry. An imaginative response to the words is absolutely vital—beautiful singing is not enough. The aim is to engage the audience in a dramatic dialogue with the poet and composer, to question and probe the intentions of both. In opera, there are all the resources of the stage to help get the drama across;in recital it is up to the singer and pianist alone. But if the imagination is there, from both audience and performers, there is nothing more satisfying.

CH:What is the most fruitful aspect of the singer-pianist collaborative relationship?

MP: I love rehearsing—and the great joy of singing lieder is that the singer and pianist can work as much as they like without worrying about union rules or overtime. There is an endless exploration to be undertaken in this repertoire—no one singer can have the last word—and every day you discover new things about the greatest songs. No performance should ever be the same.

CH: What is one thing your audience may not know about you?

MP: I never think I am good enough and always hope to get better.

CH: What's on your iPod?

MP: Lots of Beethoven (including Paul Lewis's recordings of the piano sonatas), Bach preludes and fugues played by Till Fellner, much Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, and Laura Marling, as well as the jazz trio The Bad Plus.

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