Music review: Bryn Terfel & Malcolm Martineau

Edinburgh International Festival: Not only was this a recital of two different halves, but two distinct Bryns.

Usher Hall


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Starting with the serious stuff, Terfel sang a selection of water-themed Schubert songs with consummate ease, his lilting ­melodies floating over Martineau’s quicksilver piano accompaniment. A contrast to the bass baritone’s deep, velvety notes in Brahms’ Vier ernste Gesänge Op 121 (Four Serious Songs).

In the second half, the mood brightened in Ibert’s sun-soaked Quatre chansons de Don Quichotte, with Terfel demonstrating his star quality by ending the piece on the softest of high notes.

The Welshman visibly relaxed as he launched into repertoire associated with his homeland. Bryan Davies’s A Medley of Welsh Folksongs followed songs the young Terfel’s grandmother made him sing including Owen Williams’s sublime Sul y Blodau (Palm Sunday). Turning his back on a packed hall, he sang this, with touching intimacy, to the audience in the organ gallery.

There was playful banter with Martineau during the singer’s tribute to baritone John Charles Thomas who was popular in 1920s-1940s America. Terfel has a gift for comedy, hamming it up for Thomas’s more witty hits such as The Green-Eye Dragon and The Golfer’s Lament, a sport clearly dear to his heart.