Solo Voices at PIAF
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Terfel is built like a rugby forward and he has a voice of similar size. It’s a phenomenal instrument, beautifully trained in a way that allows him complete control of the medium, leaving him free to focus on interpretative considerations.
Terfel’s account at Perth Concert Hall of Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel was an enchanting listening experience with phrase after immaculately turned phrase expressed via a stream of sound which, from first note to last, was most beautifully coloured in tonal terms. Disappointingly, the piano accompaniment by Anders Kilstrom was far too soft. Instead of providing a fine keyboard foil to the vocal line, the sound of the piano frequently all but disappeared when pitted against Terfel’s singing at its most robust. And at its gentlest, it touched the ear as lightly as a dandelion seed floating across the Concert Hall.
For those who think of Bryn Terfel exclusively in terms of his more heroic opera roles and his ability to blast a way through even the most formidably loud of orchestras, this journey through some of music’s most delicate sonic landscapes might well have proved revelatory. And the overall effect of Terfel’s singing after interval was greatly enhanced by a much more satisfying response from Kilstrom who upped the decibel levels at the keyboard in a way that made for a far more equitable distribution of sound. And, as always, Terfel’s genial stage manner broke the ice instantly.
I especially admired his treatment of four songs by Tosti, not least La Serenata with its ardently expressed vocal line to Kilstrom’s rippling accompaniment.
There were also many rewards at a performance of Dvorak’s Stabat Mater in which vocal soloists and a large choir performed in ensemble with the Prague Chamber Orchestra.
I have not heard tenor Aldo di Toro to better advantage; the intensity of his quasi-operatic treatment of the part sounded here entirely suitable and augurs well for a career as an oepra singer. And mezzo soprano Fiona Campbell was radiant both visually and vocally; her concluding solo – Let me be Guarded – before Quando Corpus brings the work to a close, was deeply affecting. One cannot too highly praise the singing, too, of the Australian Intervarsity Choral Societies Association which filled the choir stalls to overflowing. Here was a choir that sounded trained to the nth degree, certainly insofar as fine tonal light and shade are concerned.
Soprano Gweneth-Ann Jeffers was an important figure in PIAF’s Wigmore Chamber Music series, in exceptional form in Messiaen’s Songs of Love and Death (with Cedric Tiberghien an inspired piano partner) and impressive in Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.
Copyright Neville Cohn 2004