Classical review: Mark Padmore, Kilkenny Arts Festival


In the midst of this year’s Mozart immersion, Kilkenny Arts continued with a thread of Bach from last year’s festival. Internationally renowned tenor Mark Padmore joined Camerata Kilkenny in the apt setting of St Canice’s Cathedral for an evening of arias and instrumental works.

Bach’s sacred cantatas, based on Lutheran texts, are sombre and beautiful meditations on solemn themes of death and redemption. The highlight of the programme was cantata 82, Ich Habe Genug, more usually associated with a bass voice.

Padmore’s rendition was compelling. His unaffected, sinuous instrument suggested a greater degree of fragility than the more robust baritone register. In the heavenly aria, Schlummert ein, many eyes did indeed ‘close softly and happily’.

The reduction down to a lively continuo featuring Malcolm Proud and Sarah MacMahon on harmonium and cello in the single arias offered a pleasing contrast to the full ensemble. Rachel Beckett on Baroque flute shone in the flowing obligados. Soprano, Roisin O’Grady’s clear voiced chorale blended smoothly in counterpoint with the tenor verses in an aria from Cantata 156. My festival highlight — an evening when singers, musicians, texts and setting resonated with listeners in a deep spiritual experience.

Camerata violinist, Maya Homburger and bassist Barry Guy packed an interesting collage of Bach, Biber, improvisation and contemporary music into an hour at the Parade Tower, a charming rotund space within Kilkenny Castle. The highlight was a declamatory rendition by Guy of Kurtags’ setting of Beckett’s poem, Roundelay, accompanied by the duo’s emphatic pizzicato strings.

Back to Bach at Black Abbey where Alina Ibragimova reprised the first of her solo violin programmes which were such a hit at Proms 2015. A slender, solitary figure, the young virtuoso, playing from memory enthralled us with seemingly effortless technique and vivid nuanced playing. The lighting could have been more subdued as publicity suggested a candlelit setting. To quote Bach himself, “Music is an agreeable harmony for the honor of God and the permissible delights of the soul”. Both aims were well served in Kilkenny over the festival.


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