Concert November 2009
Winchester Music Club was proud to present this gala concert with the internationally-famous bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, in support of Emmaus Hampshire. Mendelssohn worked on and promoted works by Bach and Handel and when an oratorio on Elijah was proposed he approached it in the spirit of those baroque composers and with great dramatic emphasis. Mendelssohn himself commissioned the English version of the libretto for the premiere in Birmingham in 1846.
- Anna Dennis – soprano
- Sarah Shorter- alto
- Nathan Vale – tenor
- Bryn Terfel- bass-baritone
- Winchester Music Club
- Winchester College Glee Club and the Quiristers
- Winchester Music Club Orchestra Brian Howells – leader
Concert Review by Duncan Eves
Winchester Cathedral Concert: Mendelssohn’s ‘Elijah’ with Bryn Terfe.
l On Thursday evening, Bryn Terfel, star of the international operatic stage, hit town, fresh from the nationwide promotional tour of his latest album, ‘Bad Boys’, which celebrates the villains of opera. Here in Winchester though, Bryn was most definitely the good guy, taking the lead role in Felix Mendelssohn’s oratorio ‘Elijah’. Performing the work in the bicentenary year of Mendelssohn’s birth were Winchester Music Club Chorus and Orchestra, and Winchester College Glee Club and Quiristers, with soloists Anna Dennis, Sarah Shorter, Nathan Vale and Ashley Riches. Malcolm Archer was at the cathedral organ and Nicholas Wilks conducted.
The concert was in aid of the Emmaus Hampshire Community. At the outset of the oratorio, with just a few dramatic chords as introduction, Mendelssohn has Elijah announce the impending famine. Bryn immediately captured our attention with his commanding and imperious tonal projection. His vast operatic experience was brought to bear on this role, and as the story progressed so Bryn made real theatre of the passages where Elijah challenges the prophets to summon their god Baal. Mendelssohn’s words leapt off the page at this point and the chorus clearly relished the dramatic impact that Bryn was creating.
The ensuing drama as Elijah brings down the fire from heaven was captured with choral singing of real fury, and with excellent diction. There was also nobility and tenderness in Bryn’s singing: the famous aria ‘Lord God of Abraham’ was rich in tone and when Elijah prepares to go into the wilderness (‘It is enough’) Bryn perfectly captured the desolate mood of resignation. In this latter aria he was accompanied by some very fine string playing from the Music Club orchestra with special honours going to the cello soloist.
Early on in the performance soprano Anna Dennis blended beautifully with Bryn in the scene between Elijah and the widow whose son is raised from the dead. Opening the second part of the oratorio Anna gave us some lovely lyrical tone, floating her high notes quite exquisitely and then, later on, singing radiantly as the angel. Anna is, of course, our own local girl, which makes hearing her sing with such polish and musicianship even more special.
Tenor Nathan Vale gave us lyrical tone as well as power and Sarah Shorter, the alto, produced a suitably vengeful tone as Queen Jezebel and then provided a rich-toned account of ‘O rest in the Lord’. Treble soloist Tom Keogh sang with outstanding conviction and purity of sound as the youth who is sent by Elijah to keep watch for the impending rainstorms. A splendid evening – but for once, the great German composer must share equal honours with the great Welsh baritone. Thank you, Bryn!