Muller's tale of a young miller and his romantic troubles inspired a beautiful setting by Schubert – and it is Paul Lewis's lucid playing that will remain with me long after the singing has faded from my memory. He has a lightness, sensitivity and clarity to his technique that allows more detail to emerge than I have ever heard before. It was a joy to hear the piano part truly given the prominence that Schubert's writing deserves – without once failing to support Padmore completely.
Mark Padmore has a wonderful tenor sound and is able to create a wide range of colours throughout his range. He is also clearly a very talented linguist and he has an obvious affinity with the German text of the songs. He was at his best in the closing songs of the cycle where his intensity and voice combined to produce a very moving conclusion to the evening.
For me, I want to be taken on a journey through a song cycle – seeing how the central figure progresses along their emotional path. Padmore's interpretation has the feel of someone looking back on the events portrayed in Muller's text rather than living them. There are the moments where the setting and the words are crying out for a more youthful and joyous response from the singer. Padmore has the facility to convey this sort of sound but chose to portray the miller as more neurotic than joyous. As a result the emotional roller-coaster was rather flattened out – insufficient early highs to really move me when the troughs were reached. It is also quite a slow reading of the score – coming in at 75 minutes – some 10 minutes longer than other interpretations.
I cannot find fault with the quality of the performances – both are excellent musicians and this was clearly demonstrated. I just did not connect with their view of the central character and as a result was not as engaged as I have been with other versions. Having said that, there were more than enough people on their feet at the end to show that my view is very much a minority one.