Mark Padmore’s Songs of the Earth

The British tenor Mark Padmore is on tour in America. Most of his performances are with Mitsuko Uchida in the celebrated Beethoven and Schubert cycles An die ferne Geliebte and Schwanengesang. They play Cleveland, Philadelphia, Princeton and New York (Zankel Hall).

Padmore is also unveiling a new mixed program of song and poetry, Songs of the Earth.

Billy Collins – As if to demonstrate an eclipse
Franz Schubert – Im Abendrot
Mary Oliver – Mysteries, Yes
Gustav Mahler – Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
Robert Schumann – Mondnacht
Kathleen Jamie – Perfect Day
Vaughan Williams – Silent Noon
Aaron Copland – Nature, the Gentlest Mother
Hanns Eisler – Sprinkling of Gardens
Robin Robertson – Keys to the Door
Gabriel Fauré – Prison
Philip Larkin – Going, going
Reynaldo Hahn – Chanson d’automne
Tansy Davies – Destroying Beauty
William Wordsworth – Lines Written in Early Spring
Benjamin Britten – At day close in November
Seamus Heaney – Clearances
Benjamin Britten – The auld Aik


Charles Ives – The Cage
Rainer Maria Rilke – The Panther
Rebecca Clarke – The Tiger
D H Lawrence – The Snake
Benjamin Britten – Fish in the Unruffled Lake
Rainer Maria Rilke – from 8th Duino Elegy
Sally Beamish – O Hoopoe
Wallace Stevens – Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Charles Ives – Housatonic at Stockbridge
Franz Schubert – Die Mutter Erde
Hayden Carruth – Essay
Ralph Vaughan Williams – Nocturne
Elizabeth Bishop – One Art
Gustav Holst – Betelgeuse
W H Auden – If I could Tell You
Franz Schubert – Frühlingsglaube

The program has a message.

I’m the pianist for the performances in Albany tomorrow (free admission!) and San Francisco March 16. In Albany the poems are being read by Sarah Deming and in SF by Keiko Carreiro and Velina Brown.

We ran the program for a few friends on Friday at Yamaha studios and it went very well. Sarah and I are old pals with Mark and it really feels “all in the family” in the best way.

I was mostly unfamiliar with this repertoire (although I might have pushed Mark into adding “Housatonic at Stockbridge” because that is one of my favorite Ives songs). One of the many revelations is “Betelgeuse” by Gustav Holst, a shocking abstract work from 1929. Benjamin Britten played piano for a recording by Peter Pears.

The three Britten songs on the program are all wonderful, as are the two Ralph Vaughan Williams selections. It’s all a reminder of the explosion of compositional creativity in the early 20th century. There’s something “British” about Holst, Britten, and Vaughan Williams, but they did not write in one style. It was all on the table. (Just last week I auditioned the Vaughan Williams Piano Concerto, which was reworked into a version for two pianos after performers complained. Striking music, complex rhythms, bitonal. At first blush the version for one pianist seems more instantly charismatic.)

As a performer, Mark pays a lot of attention to the text, whether it is Schubert’s Winterreise or Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. The addition of poetry to Songs of the Earth is a natural progression, and the cumulative effect is extraordinary.

Mark is a friend, but he’s also a profound musician, and I am grateful for this opportunity to learn from a master.