Monday 10 January 2011

A Journey of Exploration

by Mark Padmore

‘Exploration’ is one of my favourite words when talking about music. It carries an implication of not-knowing; of taking the ‘road less travelled’ and maybe not being sure of the destination. There is the possibility of surprise and discovery and a frisson added by the danger of disaster. Courage, intuition and imagination are called for.

This is a pretty good description of what it feels like to embark on a project with Britten Sinfonia. There is a palpable sense of adventure amongst the players and a certain disdain for the safety-first policy that too often pervades classical music.

Having recently completed a remarkable 13 concert tour with the band and the inspirational Pekka Kuusisto in Holland, Austria and the UK, my respect and admiration for this extraordinary group of musicians has reached new heights. Far from feeling relief that a gruelling tour was over, I experienced pangs of regret that it was not longer and a realisation that I would be extremely lucky to ever enjoy performing Britten’s Les Illuminations quite as much again. Every performance on the tour was different; every night the programme was freshly minted. There was a sense of discovering the music each time for the first time and this communicated itself to the audiences with an immediacy and excitement that was deeply appreciated.

I know that I am not alone in experiencing the thrill of this kind of music-making. Imogen Cooper has told me on numerous occasions how much she loves working with Britten Sinfonia and what a wonderful musician and leader Jacqui Shave is. Indeed the collaborations nurtured by Britten Sinfoni seem to have a particular intimacy and mutual enthusiasm that is far-removed from the aloofness that can often be found between orchestras and soloists in the ‘shotgun-weddings’ arranged by agents and promoters.

I now can’t wait for my next project with the band in February 2011 when we will perform Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with Stephen Bell and Finzi’s wonderful Dies Natalis. These two works will be joined by Britten’s Nocturne on our first recording together which we will make immediately after the tour for Harmonia Mundi. This will be a disc that contains some of the most perfect word-setting in the entire repertoire of English music and poetry of genius: Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth, Keats, Shakespeare and Thomas Traherne.

And the journey continues - I am already in discussions with David Butcher planning further explorations to new and interesting places. Watch this space!


Mark Padmore will perform Finzi's Dies natalis in Cambridge on Monday 7 February, London on Wednesday 9 February and Norwich on Sunday 13 February. More Info

He will perform Britten's Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with Stephen Bell in Dartington on Sunday 6 February, Southampton on Thursday 10 February and Birmingham on Friday 11 February. More Info

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