Recorded twenty years ago and five after Bryn Terfel won the Lieder prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World, this recital, despite the slightly predictable and hackneyed choice of programme, remains one of the most compelling on the market and serves both as a reminder of the beauty of his bass-baritone in its early days and also as the perfect introduction to Schubert's genius.
As I can testify from having heard him live only last month at Covent Garden, years of Wotan mean that Terfel's voice no longer possesses the ease, resonance and flexibility heard here although he is still a major dramatic and vocal presence. That ability to characterise convincingly, complemented by impeccably enunciated German and Malcolm Martineau's expert accompaniment, results in a thoroughly recommendable and satisfying disc - as long as you respond to his open-hearted , demonstrative approach which more refined tastes might find lacks subtlety. When teaching, I always used his "Erlkönig" to illustrate the chilling power of the Gothic sensibility, as the best version I knew.
Having said that, I personally cannot hear any lack of subtlety in his frequent resorting to soft singing, yet I also revel in the power and immediacy of his voice. I hear properly differentiated voices in the wide compass of songs selected here and a touchstone Lied like "Ständchen" reliably emerges as one of Schubert's greatest masterpieces, on a par with accounts by bass-baritone predecessors like John Shirley-Quirk.
In truth the youthful glow of his voice here gives me some regret for the effect of the passing of so many years but at least we have this recital to remind us of one of the best singers to emerge from the Land of Song in a generation - and by the way, rejoice in the mullet of all mullets...
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