Festival Music

Bryn Terfel

Usher Hall

Loading article content

Keith Bruce

four stars

OF course it did not have the intimate appeal of seeing the great Welsh baritone accompanied by Edinburgh's own virtuoso accompanist Malcolm Martineau in the Queen's Hall of a morning, but Bryn Terfel is a substantial presence who had animated the same stage as Wotan in Die Walkure three days earlier, so it was not long before he dispensed with that problem.

A recital that demonstrated the man's huge range of repertoire as well as of notes and tone, its real meat came just before the interval with the Vier ernste Gesange of Johannes Brahms, written at the very end of the composer's life and setting Biblical texts. These are big dark works almost perfectly suited to Terfel's voice, but if powerful sonority is called for, so too, in O death, how bitter you are, is a lighter softer tone – and it was those soft, high, notes that were often the delight of the evening. The Brahms songs were, however, less of a partnership with Martineau than Terfel's personal selection of six of Schubert's that opened the programme. They included, appropriately from a great Wotan, The Wanderer, and the composer's most famous one, The Trout.

Jacques Ibert's Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte, from the 1930s, opened the second half – and offered a particular contrast to Terfel's Wagner-performing style – before the recital moved into his home territory with popular songs in Welsh and English and particularly from the repertoire of earlier Welsh baritone John Charles Thomas. Terfel can make the lyrically risible Home on the Range sound much better than it is, and given a proper lyric like the final encore of If I Were A Rich Man, from Fiddler on the Roof, is in a class of his own.