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Work of the Week: Thomas Larcher – A Padmore Cycle

Thomas Larcher’s A Padmore Cycle for tenor and orchestra receives its German premiere at the Philharmonie im Gasteig, Munich, on 18 May performed by Mark Padmore (Photo) and Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks with conductor Mariss Jansons. Originally written for tenor and prepared piano in 2010-2011, Larcher orchestrated the work in 2014 for Padmore and the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edward Gardner.

A Padmore Cycle consists of eleven songs on short but enigmatic texts by writers Alois Hotschnig and Hans Aschenwald. The poems are about the mountains and rural environment of Larcher’s native Tyrol, Austria, and more generally our changing relationship to nature. Larcher illuminates these fleeting images with fragile, transparent music laden with crystalline percussion.

Larcher’s A Padmore Cycle: A musical arc through the disparate texts

Despite the fragmentary nature of the short movements, a continuum is created with each song leading seamlessly on to the next. The vocal line remains true to the simplicity of the original poems and favours a pure sound with little experimentation in phrasing or syllables. This leaves space for the orchestra to reflect on the text after it has been sung. Though the orchestral version is melodically similar to the original piano version, Larcher considers this to be more than a mere transcription, but rather an enormous expansion of the piano’s soundworld.

Even while writing the original version for tenor and piano, I thought about the possibility of setting this piece for tenor and orchestra. I wanted to let the sound-world of the piano (the ‘reflections’) explode … just like projecting the thoughts and feelings of the inside of a human head on a very large screen, and thus sensing all the details and the dimensions of them. – Thomas Larcher

Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks will perform A Padmore Cycle on 18 and 19 May in Munich, and on 20 May in Hamburg. A new version of the work for tenor and piano trio will be premiered by Mark Padmore and Wiener Klaviertrio on 20 June in Vienna, with performances following throughout June in Ludwigsburg, London and Amsterdam.


Photo: © Marco Borggreve (Mark Padmore)