Top positive review
20 of 21 people found this helpful
on 13 September 2013
Bryn Terfel's voice is a phenomenon, and I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced it in my lifetime; these kinds of voices only come along once in a generation or so. The burnished timbre, richness, colossal power, immaculate breath control, and sheer beauty all combine in an instrument that is peerless among bass-baritones today. Add to that his exceptional sensitivity to text and meaning, and his impeccable musicianship--both of which seem to be enhanced further with age and experience--and pretty much anything Terfel sings is a gem. Put him in company with the iconic Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and it's pure magic.
Comparisons are bound to arise between this album and Terfel's *Simple Gifts* from eight years ago. The repertory traverses the same wide-ranging territory (including some overlaps of song choice) from sacred to secular, old to new, classical to traditional. Here the choir is featured more prominently than the London Voices were on the earlier CD, but otherwise the album concept is similar. That said, I think the current album is much more successful, and the elevation of the choir to an equal partner with the soloist lends more variety to the repertory--the choir isn't there just to sing pretty "back-up" vocals. There are no cringe-worthy collaborations or cloying pop songs to skip over on this album. And I think the quality of performance across the board--soloists, choir, orchestra--surpasses the earlier album.
Terfel applies his lieder chops here to everything he sings, giving as much nuance and attention to "Home on the Range" as he does to Handel or Fauré. That's an artist who has owned his musicianship, and doesn't need to prove anything to anyone. Every track is impeccably sung. Bravissimo, Bryn.
And a heads-up to those who haven't heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir recently... it's not your grandmother's choir. I've been following the aesthetic direction this choir has taken over the last ten years, and suspect the current album will only augment its reputation as one of the finest choirs in the world today. It is a large group--360 singers--and yet on this album the choir sings with the clarity of tone, precision, and intimacy of a small, professional chamber ensemble. It is scrupulously in-tune and matched in timbre throughout its range--a very carefully controlled sound. On the quieter tracks it holds back, keeping its potential sonic power in check: a lion waiting to roar. Then I hear the end of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" or the middle section of Fauré's "Libera me" from the Requiem, and melt in awe of what a very disciplined large choir can do when it pulls out all the stops. And they don't come any larger, or more disciplined, than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Finally, kudos to the guests that sing with Terfel. Sissel is luminous, as always. On the final track ("Give Me My Song") her singing is more ravishing than ever. And Tamara Mumford reveals a beautifully warm and sensitive mezzo-soprano voice in Karl Jenkins's "Ave verum corpus."
All-round, this album sets a new benchmark in choral/vocal excellence.