Top positive review
36 people found this helpful
Terfel triumphs with Silent Noon
on 11 January 2005
It is difficult to find fault with this release 'Silent Noon' which amply demonstrates Terfel's wide range of vocal colour. The combination of one of the world's most popular and characterful voices together with an interesting and attractive selection of English Songs make for an outstanding recital. This is Terfel's second disc of English Songs, the first being a critically acclaimed, award winning recording from 1995 entitled 'The Vagabond' that features songs by Ireland, Vaughan Williams, Butterworth and Finzi on Deutsche Grammophon 445 946-2. This recital entitled 'Silent Noon' takes its name from the celebrated song of the same name by Vaughan Williams and also includes settings by Quilter, Gurney, Somervell, Warlock et al. Perhaps the popular success of The Vagabond has given Deutsche Grammophon the confidence to break away from the mainstream by including several songs by lesser known composers: Frederick Keel, Dilys Elwyn-Edwards and Michael Head. On a personal note I would have preferred more settings from my favourite and masters of the English art-song tradition: Warlock, Bridge, Delius, Bantock, especially Gurney and also Elgar who was a less prolific song-setter. Nevertheless this 'Silent Noon' song recital which includes several surprises is also a delightful and fascinating one.
In addition to Terfel's renowned rich, oak hued and sonorous voice his performances particularly in the genre of Opera demonstrate to best advantage the outstanding dramatic power of his voice. The majority of these songs are of a softer, more joyous or poignant nature however Terfel's vocal strength and characterful performance is expertly displayed in several of the settings namely Keel's 'Mother Carey' and Somervell's 'The street sounds to the soldiers' tread' and 'On the idle hill of summer'.
Friends and family remarked on the clarity of Terfel's diction on this release; an attribute that is easy to take for granted together with his almost watertight control. However, no one, Terfel included, is without their idiosyncrasies. I am conscious of the bass-baritone's tendency to place only a modest emphasis on the pronunciation of his word endings and a habit to sometimes roll his R's; which some may find irritating. The only other blemish of note for me in this recital is the wobble in 'Head's Money, O!' which seems to be the setting that Terfel is least comfortable in.
Terfel's dynamic range is quite superb as he can float delicately and effortlessly like a seagull on a thermal as in Gurney's 'Sleep' and Parry's 'Love is a Bable' and build up with an organic power akin to a volcano erupting such as that can be heard in Quilter's 'Blow, blow, thou winter wind'.
In Britten's popular folksong arrangement, 'The foggy, foggy dew' Terfel's presence and personality sparkle through and it is easy to see why he has achieved such remarkable popularity with audiences. My particular favourite songs are those of Gurney's 'Sleep', Vaughan Williams' 'Silent noon' and 'Linden lea' together with Quilter's 'Now sleep the crimson petal' which all convey the gentle beauty and poignancy of the settings with a consummate sensitivity and expressiveness that sent a shiver down my spine. One could not ask for any more of the piano accompanist Malcolm Martineau who displays a remarkable affinity with the music and seems to breath as one with Terfel.
For me this excellent Terfel recital seems to conclude unsatisfactorily and in rather a flat mood. Ideally the selection of a more up-beat concluding song would have offered a more stirring climax such as Gurney's 'Ha'nacker Mill', Parry's 'No longer mourn for me' or Warlock's 'Passing by'.
The sound quality I found to be first class, well balanced and most naturally recorded. The annotation which includes full texts is of a high standard although it is annoying not to have the tracks listed numerically on the rear of the jewel-case and to have to take out the booklet and look inside to identify each song.
It is a privilege to hear such a glorious voice in this wonderful repertoire of English song and I look forward to another volume from Bryn Terfel in the future. A quite superb release.