26 August, 2009

Festival Blogger review - Bryn Terfel & Malcolm Martineau

Image: Bryn Terfel

Bryn Terfel has a fantastic, one-in-a-million voice. The combination of world famous baritone Bryn Terfel and the hugely accomplished Malcolm Martineau who has accompanied the likes of Thomas Allan, Ian Bostridge and Angela Gheorghiu, promised a wonderful evening and so I went along to the Usher Hall with high expectations.

Everything about Bryn Terfel is on a big scale; his stage presence, his character, his voice. He filled ever corner of the two-thousand capacity venue with ease. His diction was crisp and clear to everyone whether he was singing in English, as he did for the predominance of the concert, or in German as he did for the somewhat random insertion of Schumann in the second half. Malcolm Martineau’s playing matched the quality of the singing every step of the way. With beautiful subtlety and emotion Martineau accompanied and supported Terfel throughout. Terfel’s voice was solid throughout his entire register and his dynamics, especially his quiet moments, were stunning. He had a gorgeous richness to his voice which made his renditions of Quilter’s ‘Weep you no more’, Keel’s ‘Port of Many Ships’ and Vaughan Williams ‘Whither Must I Wander?’ being particular highlights.

Every so often there were glimmers of the star-quality of his voice but I felt the repertoire failed to show off the extent of what Terfel's voice can do. I thing folk and traditional music can be a very worthy addition to any recital, and I also fully support his initiative to encourage music for the masses but Terfel’s programme failed to include enough contrast or substance. I have no doubt that many of the audience will have walked away from the concert at the Usher Hall thoroughly satisfied as Bryn Terfel is without question an engaging and charming first-class performer. However the concert left me feeling slightly frustrated - I had the privilege to attend a concert given by one of the world’s leading baritones yet was only allowed to hear glimpses of his real capability.

Reviewer: Fiona Stewart

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