Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 19, 2013

Bryn Terfel

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 18, 2013
by Michael J. Moran

Bryn Terfel
Long before the end of a recital whose start was delayed by an ill-timed thunderstorm, charismatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel had the capacity audience in Ozawa Hall eating out of his hand. Brilliantly accompanied by pianist Natalia Katyukova, he proved himself both a born entertainer and a master musician.

The concert opened with settings by three composers of seven poems by John Masefield. With flawless enunciation and emotional sensitivity, Terfel perfectly captured their varied moods, from Ireland’s wistful “Sea Fever” to Warlock’s riotous “Captain Stratton’s Fancy” to Keel’s haunting “Mother Carey.” The English-language first-half concluded with Roger Quilter’s settings of four more poems by British poets, all lovingly rendered. 

The second half began with German-language sets of four songs by Schumann and three by Schubert. Drawing on his long operatic experience, Terfel produced dramatic accounts of Schumann’s “Two Grenadiers” and Schubert’s mostly cheerful “Trout” until its darker ending. His facial expressions during the closing piano solo in Schumann’s eerie “My Cart Rolls Slowly” also showcased his strong acting skills.

While the formal program ended with rousing renditions of four “songs from the Celtic Isles” (including the Irish “Danny Boy” and the Welsh “All Through the Night”), Terfel and Katyukova delivered three surprising encores: the novelty songs “Green-Eyed Dragon” and “Big Brown Bear,” and the Kansas state song “Home on the Range.” To all three pieces Terfel brought a lighter touch but full vocal command.

In one of the earthy spoken introductions he gave to each set, Terfel had already expressed his admiration for Welsh-American baritone John Charles Thomas, who loved and performed two of these encores. Along the way he also paid tribute to his teachers at the Guildhall School of Music, Arthur Reckless (enjoying the name) and Rudolf Piernay, with whom he still studies as time permits.

By the time he invited the enthusiastic audience to sing along with him, they were happy to oblige both in the official closer “Loch Lomond” and in “Home on the Range.” As a fitting end to a magical evening, a bright moon was visible in the Berkshire sky at the concert’s close.