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Bryn - First Love: Songs from the British Isles
Traditional (arranged by Chris HAZELL)
Carrickfergus [4:10]
Scarborough Fair (with Kate Royal) [3:49]
Cariad Cyntaf (First Love) [3:54]
Loch Lomond [3:55]
Danny Boy (with Ronan Keating) [3:40]
Molly Malone [2:31]
Passing by [3:12]
Blow the Wind Southerly [2:49]
O Waly Waly [2:58]
The first time ever I saw your face [3:51]
Marwnad yr Ehedydd (Elegy to the Lark) [2:53]
My Lagan Love (with Sharon Corr) [4:59]
My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose [3:24]
My Little Welsh Home [2:34]
She Moved Through The Fair (with Sharon Corr) [3:11]
Ae Fond Kiss [3:16]
Bryn Terfel (baritone)
London Voices; London Symphony Orchestra/Barry Wordsworth
rec. AIR Studios, London, December 2007, May 2008
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4777865 [54:36] 


Experience Classicsonline

This is a very frustrating disc. For many opera lovers, particularly London-based Wagnerians, Bryn Terfel put himself beyond the pale when he pulled out of Wotan in the Royal Opera Ring in 2007 with very little notice. Since then his appearances on British operatic stages have been more rare, though he still has interesting plans for the season ahead. Crossover albums like this, and one-off appearances like the Last Night of the Proms, have now become Terfel’s staple. He recently suggested in a newspaper interview that he is considering scaling back his career now that he has reached his mid-40s! We must surely find it sad that he seems to have cut himself off from a vast wealth of operatic roles in which we will never hear him. It was with that background that I came to this new collection. This disc is no masterpiece. While there are still parts of it that appealed through even my cynical exterior, it feels like a like a waste of nearly everybody’s talent.

In the booklet notes Terfel makes a big deal about what great music these British folksongs are. If that is the case then it is a shame that so many of the arrangements here are so downright odd! Some of them just seem perverse: Loch Lomond, for example, is far too militaristic, and has none of the melancholy longing that this song should surely produce. Molly Malone, similarly, has too many cheeky interventions from the woodwind to allow the song to flow. Similarly, and perhaps most surprisingly, My Little Welsh Home is just plain dull, with none of the heft that appears in the other Welsh numbers so dear to Terfel. It is the English arrangements that come off best: Passing By and Blow the Wind Southerly are gentle and refined, and entirely in keeping with the mood of both music and words. The pronounced role given to the strings helps here too. 

The best number on the disc, however, My Lagan Love, is just lovely. The melody unfolds against a warm, flowing backdrop, and Sharon Corr’s contribution is fantastic. She is a genuine folk musician, an expert in this kind of repertoire, and her solo violin, so different to an orchestral leader, really marks this song out as special. It was entirely appropriate that a musician of her stature should be asked to take part. 

It’s a shame that you cannot say the same of Bryn’s other collaborators. Kate Royal adds nothing to Scarborough Fair, sounding banal and a bit out of place, while the excruciating and entirely misplaced duet with Ronan Keating wrecks Danny Boy. This is symptomatic of one of the problems of crossover: it feels like he has just got in two star names to sell discs while in fact they add nothing to the music. Why on earth didn’t he just sing the songs by himself?! 

So this disc has enough to enjoy, but it just feels like a stocking filler. I’ll listen to it more as an indicator of the great roles which Terfel will never record because he’s too busy spending his energy on projects like this.

Simon Thompson


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