> Terfel sings Richard Wagner [RJF]: Classical CD Reviews- June2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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TERFEL sings Richard WAGNER
Arias from: Der Fliegende Holländer, Die Meistersinger, Tannhaüser, Parsifal, Die Walküre.
Bryn TERFEL (bar)

Berlin Philharmoniker/Claudio Abbado.
Recorded live in the Philharmonie, Berlin, May and October 2001. Full price


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I well remember that night in 1989 when, in the final of the "Cardiff Singer of the World" competition that Terfel, then in his strapping early twenties, embarked on the Dutchman's Monologue. The audience were, to use a pungent North of England phrase, 'gob smacked’. The competition audiences hadn't heard much Wagner before, nor have they since. At the conclusion of Terfel's performance, the native Welsh in the Cardiff audience, ever hoping for a home win in this renowned international competition thought they had it in the pocket. However, whilst Terfel's firm toned, vocally beautiful portrayal lacked the ultimate in expressing the Dutchman's musings, Dmitri Hvorostovky's singing of Rodrigo's final aria and death, from Verdi's Don Carlo, didn't, and the home hero came second. Ever since that evening Wagnerians have hoped, waited for and wanted, Terfel's move into their beloved repertoire. Thankfully, for the sake of his wonderful vocal resources, he has, up to the present, restricted his appearances in the theatre in this repertoire, whilst singing a number of Wagner recitals often under the baton of Claudio Abbado. It is from two such performances in 2001 that this CD is derived. It includes some of the most formidable vocal challenges in the operatic canon. Perhaps the greatest enjoyment of this disc is that Terfel sings all the excerpts with a security, and wide palette, of tone that far too often is lacking in performances of this repertoire in the theatre and on record. His singing of Sachs' two monologues is outstanding, as is his enunciation of the language, steady legato and judicious use of half voice, where appropriate, throughout the disc. Yes, his Dutchman still lacks the ultimate variation of tone and inflection that George London brought to the part, and one hopes for greater insight into the Wanderer by the time he essays the role at Covent Garden in 2005, but that is to quibble. This is magnificent singing of the most demanding repertoire for the bass-baritone voice. Neither the recording, with the voice too recessed for my liking, nor Abbado's conducting is as outstanding as the singing, but never less than adequate. All Wagnerians, Welshmen, opera lovers, and many others will want to add this disc to their shelves. They shouldn't hesitate. The final good news is that you get a full 72 minutes for your money, not a paltry fifty odd that often seems the ration on new recital discs on some labels!


Robert J Farr


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