Bryn Terfel's Carols and Christmas Songs

Free Download! Bryn Terfel performing "O Holy Night"

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bryn Terfel's assets as a singer are undeniable: a rich voice of warmth and power, an immaculate sense of diction and the ability to interpret popular material in a way that doesn’t sound silly or condescending.

Yet given the Welsh bass-baritone’s busy international career, it’s hard not to wonder if he’s treading into dicey territory with an album of Christmas songs. Who hasn’t cringed at the sound of opera singers bellowing overexposed carols in languages they can't even pronounce?

However, within a few moments of hearing "Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” the opening track on “Carols and Christmas Songs,” you start to sense that this is music Terfel knows and loves. With 15 favorites, plus a bonus disc of holiday material in Welsh, the recording gets the nod for our Album of the Week.

Terfel has had an eventful 2010, having released a collection of songs from the British Isles and "Bad Boys," a sampler of villain roles. In October, he sang the role of Wotan in the Metropolitan Opera’s heavily dissected Das Rheingold. In contrast to the grandeur of Wagnerian singing, some of the best selections on this album are simplest. “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Away in a Manger” and “What Child is This?” showcase a big but unmannered operatic voice, carefully avoiding over-embellishment.

The guest list includes tenor Rolando Villazón, in a sensitive duet of “Navidad Nuestra,” and Welsh harpist Catrin Finch, who adds texture to “Silent Night” and “What Child is This?” and the late Bing Crosby, in a "duet" version of "White Christmas." Among the Welsh selections, standouts include "Carol y Ganwyll" and "Ganol Gaeaf Noethlwm" (In the Bleak Midwinter).

If the arrangements occasionally turn schmaltzy, no matter. That's what Christmas records do best.


Bryn Terfel tells WQXR about the inspiration for "Carols and Christmas Songs":

"Carols & Christmas Songs"
Bryn Terfel, baritone; assorted choirs, Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera
Tecwyn Evans, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon
Available at


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Comments [4]


While Terfel is a good singer, this album is DREADFUL! The arrangements are totally overblown and miss the entire point of the Christmas season. Listening to QXR is dicey at best these days and when this album comes on, my radio goes off.

Dec. 17 2010 05:16 PM
Janet from Brooklyn

And even when he does use the first person singular, he's referring to the music and his love for it.

Dec. 14 2010 03:41 PM
Janet from Brooklyn

It is noteworthy how seldom the word "I" crops up in interviews with Bryn Terfel.

Dec. 14 2010 03:37 PM
kenneth Bennett Lane

It's no surprise that BRYN TERFEL has another triumph to add to this year's accomplishments as a singer with an individualistic approach to each singing role and each composition. Great as Mario del Monaco was as a dramatic tenor in a wide "rep' including Siegmund in Wagner's "Die Walkuere" he was totallyoutr of his element when he recorded much too heroically "Tonight" from Bernstein's "West Side Story." Terfel is to be commended for his Christmas CD set, as most people want to hear real voices, if sung appropriately, sing melodic favorites be they Christmas carols, zarzuelas, pop, folk, Irish songs, Latino hits, Neapolitan canzones, other ethnic music, and Broadway favorites.

Dec. 14 2010 10:34 AM

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About Albums of the Week

The Albums of the Week are compelling new recordings that we spotlight every week. These include creative repertoire choices, engaging musical personalities and artistic statements that stand out from the pack. You can hear the Albums of the Week throughout the day and evening on WQXR.