> Some Enchanted Evening Terfel [CH]: Classical Reviews- January 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

Richard Blackford

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The Best of the Musicals
LANE Burton (1912-1997)

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever: She Wasn’t You
LOEWE Frederick (1901-1988)

Brigadoon: There But For You Go I, Camelot: How To Handle A Woman, If Ever I Would Leave You, The Little Prince: Little Prince, My Fair Lady: Get Me to the Church On Time, On The Street Where You Live, Paint Your Wagon: I Was Born Under a Wand’ring Star, They Call the Wind Maria
RODGERS Richard (1902-1979)

Allegro: A Fellow Needs a Girl, Come Home, Carousel: If I Loved You, You’ll Never Walk Alone, The King and I: I Have Dreamed, Something Wonderful, Oklahoma: Oh, What a Beautiful Morning, The Sound of Music: Edelweiss, South Pacific: Some Enchanted Evening, There is Nothing Like a Dame, Younger Than Springtime
WEILL Kurt (1900-1950)

Love Life: Here I’ll Stay
Bonus track:
BERLIN Irving (1888-1989)

White Christmas
Bryn Terfel (Baritone), Chorus of Opera North, English Northern Philharmonia/Paul Daniel
Location, date, producer etc. not given
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 471 425-2 [76.52]

A few at a time, this has been my end-of-the-day listening for some days, and the problem is I just can’t engage. Maybe the fault is mine; it’s a lovely voice, artistically used, words are clear and savoured, and yet … Had I grown tired of this sort of music? Out came a few alternative versions, enough to convince me that this music still can engage me. So why?

Take Mandy Patinkin in the not wholly satisfactory Te Kanawa/Carreras South Pacific (mostly valuable for a couple of classic tracks with Sarah Vaughan). It’s obvious that his voice is not a patch on Terfel’s and he uses some standard "music hall" tricks of enunciation to cover the fact. But he has a wholehearted sincerity that can bring a lump to your throat. Terfel seems to skim over the surface, unresponsive to the little rhythmic inflections (Gayer than laughter – pause – are you) that Patinkin and others before him have used to enliven the message. Is this music best left to those who specialise in it? Well, not necessarily, for even Carreras’s Some Enchanted Evening, if not quite idiomatic, has a certain tingle factor.

Perhaps a hint of the problem can be found remembering how not long ago I reviewed the Grimethorpe’s latest disc and, comparing their Dam Busters March to that directed by Sir Adrian Boult, I commented that conductors of that generation could take up light pieces and play them as if they were for that moment the one thing that mattered to them. Not only conductors. Go back a generation or two (in music as well as singing) and listen to Peter Dawson singing twaddle about "Morgan and Calicoe Joe" or the unspeakable pun that crowns "At Santa Barbara". He must have known that this wasn’t quite Schubert, just as Boult knew that Eric Coates wasn’t quite Elgar and even Elgar wasn’t quite Mozart, yet his open-hearted conviction makes the songs real for the listener. For the moment you are happy to forget about Schubert and Mozart and just listen to the song being sung to you. Perhaps for some listeners Bryn Terfel has this quality, and I am very glad for them; I only wish I could find it here myself. It’s very presumptuous of me to try to imagine what’s going on in a performer’s mind but if the disc had been titled, not as above, but "Bryn Condescends with a Bit of Romantic Slosh", in his heart of hearts, isn’t that what it’s about?

Now to get down to specifics, one symptom is a tendency to enjoy long notes for their own sake, rather than as part of a line. You can hear this in "I Have Dreamed". Then, there’s a lot of "microphone singing", sweet caressing of the words "off the voice", or even in almost pure falsetto. Every now and then this can be effective, but it seems by the end of the disc to be a penny-in-the-slot reaction to any soft piece, and when it comes to "Edelweiss", call that microphone singing! Even the microphone has difficulty in picking up the single strand of falsetto he relapses into at the end. Frankly, I found this quite enervating.

Accents are another problem (fortunately they are not often called for). The vague attempt at cowboy tones in Paint Your Wagon sounds more Cornish than anything, with "I Was Born" pointing up resemblances to "Drake’s Drum" that will have gone undetected by those brought up on Lee Marvin’s singing cowboy. "Get Me to the Church", for all its throaty attempts, lacks Stanley Holloway’s wholehearted booziness, and Professor Higgins would have seen through this "Cockney" in about five seconds!

Another factor that contributes to the sleepy overall effect is that the real title might have been "The Best of the Post-War Musicals"; and the genre had acquired a couple of extra coats of sugar by that time. Maybe a bit of spunk from Rodgers and Hart or some bittersweet Kern or Porter would have livened things up a bit.

Reactions to voices are very personal. If your reaction is more positive than mine I wish you well. A killjoy like me can only record his own reaction and then cast around for reasons for it.

The brief adulatory note is printed in English and Welsh, but Welsh-speakers unable to cope with English (not very likely visitors to this site, I admit) are warned that the song texts themselves are in English only. Still, rather than provincialism, I prefer to see this as a surreptitious bit of globalisation, or at least Europisation. Who would have imagine fifty years ago that one day Deutsche Grammophon would be releasing a disc with notes in English and Welsh and not a word of German in sight?

Christopher Howell

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