Bryn Terfel

Atgof o'r Sêr

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The mellifluous bass-baritone Bryn Terfel has gestured in the directions of crossover music and of Welsh identity-building on several of his releases in recent years, and here he goes whole hog with both. There's little use in pretending that this is not a Bryn Terfel album; even though his name is just one of a list of performers credited, and even though his solo voice appears only intermittently on the album, it would probably not have received wide distribution without him. Atgof o'r Sêr (The Memory of Stars) is an eight-movement work by contemporary Welsh composer Robat Arwyn, setting Welsh-language poems about stars for, in various movements, chorus (the Côr Rhuthun a'r Cylch, or Rhuthun and District Choir), soprano, or bass-baritone, with piano or soft rock guitar accompaniment. The title poem, you may learn by picking your way through the mostly Welsh liner notes, was written in English but translated into Welsh.

With its pleasant diatonic harmonies and pleasantly inspirational expressive language, this disc is aimed straight at Britain's large crossover market. Its musical style is shared with dozens of other recordings on the border between classical music and soft rock, but of course the Welsh language is a new wrinkle. Terfel applies sentimental gusto to his role, and perhaps the main attraction of the album is Fflur Wyn, a young female singer with a compelling boy-soprano sound. Sample her on track 4 for a taste of a very distinctive new vocal talent. The album as a whole will appeal to Charlotte Church fans who have grown up and want to try out one of Britain's bona fide opera stars, and hear a bit of the Welsh language in the process.

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