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Bryn Terfel Sings Favourites
Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Toreador Song: ‘Votre Toast, je peux vous le rendre’ from ‘Carmen’; Duet ‘Au fond du Temple Saint’ from ‘The Pearl Fishers’; Wil HOPCYN (1700-1741) Bugeilio’s Gwenith Gwyn; Howard GOODALL (b.1958) The Lord Is My Shepherd; Peggy LEE (1920-2002)/ Sonny BURKE (1914-1980) Bella Notte; Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904) Goin’ Home (theme from ‘New World Symphony’); Henry Rowley BISHOP (1786-1855) Home Sweet Home; Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828) Ave Maria; James HORNER (b.1953) Theme from ‘Titanic’; Robert LOWRY (1828-1899) At the River; Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893) None but the Lonely Heart; Alma Bazel ANDROZZO (b.1912) If I Could Help Somebody; Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Wiegenlied; William Henry MONK (1823-1889) Abide With Me; Hoagy CARMICHAEL (1899-1981)/ Johnny MERCER (1909-1976) Lazybones; American traditionalShenandoah; Swing Low, Sweet Chariot; Irish traditionalDanny Boy.
Bryn Terfel (bass-baritone)
Andrea Bocelli (tenor); Sissel (soprano)
London Voices
London Symphony Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
Recorded at Air Lyndhurst, Lyndhurst Hall, London, March 2003 and Phoenix Sound Studio One, Wembley, May 2003 (Pearl Fishers duet)
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 474 438-2 [73’38]

Oh dear. Why is it that opera stars feel the need to do this sort of thing? It may be pressure from the record companies, but I can’t imagine an artist as phenomenally successful as Terfel has been for DG, needing to bow to such pressure. That leaves the possibility that he actually wanted to do something like this. We know how Terfel likes to be thought of as everybody’s mate, the lad from the valleys made good, but whom you could still have a pint and a singsong with. Well, that may or may not be true, but musically a large part of this disc just doesn’t work.

Of course, the sort of public this is squarely aimed at will not question the things that bother me. But when I compare it to the lighter albums he’s done in the past, where great show songs were treated with the respect they deserved, most of the stuff on here seems all wrong. Too many of the small items, particularly the traditional and folksongs, are given the Hollywood treatment by producer Chris Hazell. You know the sort of thing – a rich sheen of sumptuous string tone, heavenly choirs, any opportunity for pan pipes – that simply overwhelm the material. This is not Terfel’s fault; his musicality would shine through whatever, and I reckon he would ultimately prefer simple, straightforward accompaniments that would suit the music far better. In other places we get the nightmare mix of the Hollywood arrangement and the voice plainly not suiting the song, as in the embarrassing Titanic tune (here given extra gravitas by being called Il Mio Cuore Va), or the chirpy Howard Goodall hymn from The Vicar of Dibley. Honestly, I’m not being a sourpuss to say that this grand, overblown approach does nothing for this sort of material, even something as slight as those mentioned.

Terfel’s trademark attention to diction, as well as his (sometimes over-used?) whispered pianissimos, does pay dividends in some numbers. But a superb little gem like Tchaikovsky’s None But the Lonely Heart does not need anything more than a piano and an intelligent singer to work, and Terfel’s admirably unforced rendition is swamped by the ridiculous cushion of sound around it.

Predictably, the couple of ‘straight’ opera items work best, at least for me. Terfel makes a swaggering, commanding toreador to open the disc, and I enjoyed the Pearl Fishers duet far more than I expected. I am no fan of the tremulously light, pop-orientated tenor of Andrea Bocelli, but his tone actually suits the Gallic lyricism of this aria, and the two voices blend mellifluously together. The orchestra and conductor (the admirable Barry Wordsworth) also seem more inspired here, playing original stuff in its original guise.

As I’ve already said, those to whom this disc will appeal will not be put off by what I’ve written (if they even bother to read it). So-called ‘crossover’ albums are here to stay, and it seems everyone has to have a go. The booklet note has a short (and not very successful) stab at justifying the integrity of the disc, but at least DG give us full texts (as embarrassing as the arrangements, in some cases). One for Granny’s birthday present, I think.

Tony Haywood


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