Bryn Terfel at the Schubert Club

On April 23rd, bass-baritone Bryn Terfel performed at the Ordway.  This was the only vocal recital I saw this year at the Schubert Club and it was quite enjoyable.

Early on it became clear that Terfel is a good performer, not just his great singing, but also his comfort with the audience, his stage presence.  I have seen singers with orchestras that just stand and sing, but have no real stage personality, Terfel is not one of those singers.  Probably the best example was a few years ago when the Baldwin sisters (Christina Baldwin and Jennifer Baldwin Peden) were on stage with the Minnesota Orchestra with two male singers for the Mozart Opera concert of the Casual Classics series.  The two guys just stood in their tuxes and sang, while the Baldwin sisters demonstrated great stage craft, the best was looking through the open frame like they were looking through a mirror.

Reading the text of the songs, especially of English language songs, it seemed that a few times either Terfel or the text was a bit off since they didn’t quite match a couple of times.

During the last set of songs, Songs of the Celtic Isles, Terfel solicited some audience participation for the last two songs.  For Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night) he had the audience humming with the music.  For the last song, Molly Malone, he had the audience singing with the chorus part.  At first we were pathetic and he stopped and had us stand to sing better.  The audience clearly enjoyed it, I think it is a sneaky (but fun) way to ensure a standing ovation, which he would have receive anyway.  The other strange thing with the Celtic Isles is that he skipped Cariad Cyntaf (First Love).

For an encore, he sang a nice song, can’t remember the name.  I don’t know if this was a true mistake, or part of the fun that we were lead to with the audience participation, but pianist Malcolm Martineau had the wrong music when Terfel announced the piece from the stage.  I am guessing it was planned, as Terfel went up to the piano while Martineau was off stage getting the right music and played a few notes of the music he had brought out originally and nodding it was the wrong music.  During the encore, Terfel hopped off stage and sung to women in the audience, holding hands, kissing hands, and playing footsie.  Once again showing his skills as a performer, and with his ability to get back on stage his skills at moving quickly.

It was a great performance and a nice end to the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series for the season.



Joshua Bell recital with the Schubert Club

Last night Joshua Bell returned to the Ordway stage, but not with the SPCO at his back.  After three years as an artistic partner to the SPCO, performing in nine concert programs, he returned as one of the international artists for the Schubert Club.  On stage he was joined by Jeremy Denk on piano.

While the concert was listed as sold out, there were a number of empty seats, although those empty seats filled somewhat after the first movement of the first piece as late patrons were seated.  I am sure the traffic issue of Minnesota Wild fans departing contributed to their lateness, just as I am sure the cold and windy night contributed to the seats that remained empty.

For me personally the concert felt different from the other times I have seen Joshua Bell, but that is easily explained.  I have seen Joshua Bell perform seven times with the SPCO and six of them from the front row.  Tonight I was in the first side box of the Gallery level, so I was watching the performance from much further away.  His performances with the SPCO were with the SPCO, so he had a chamber orchestra backing him up, not just a piano.  This brought out his playing a little more.

The program consisted of four pieces,

  •  The Devil’s Trill, a Sonata for violin & continuo in G minor, B.g5 by Tartini.
  •  Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor by Prokofiev.
  •  Four Romantic Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op 75 by Dvorak
  •  Sonata No.1 for Violin and Piano in D minor, Op. 75 by Saint-Saëns

I liked The Devil’s Trill the best followed by the Dvorak and Saint Saëns.  All of the performances both by Joshua Bell and Jeremy Denk were outstanding.

There were two encores, but I don’t recall what they were called, which were great just like the listed program.

Joshua Bell had a long line of people waiting for autographs, and it clearly kept him there for a while, as he came into Kincaid’s much later in the evening.  He may not have been performing with the SPCO, but there were a lot of SPCO musicians in attendance (not those performing the second night of the Minimalist Masters concert) and at Kincaid’s afterwards so he may have felt at home.

In chatting with Dale Barltrop at the end of the night in Kincaid’s, he was curious, as a fellow violinist would be, of the program.  Dale was sad that he wasn’t able to hear The Devil’s Trill as he will be performing that same piece with the SPCO this May, you can check out the performance schedule here.