Bryn Terfel Jones was born in Pant Glas, Caernarfonshire, North Wales, the son of a farmer. His first language is Welsh. He knew of another Welsh baritone named Bryn Jones, so chose Bryn Terfel as his professional name.
Pant Glas is Welsh for “Green Hollow.” Jones is the most common Welsh surname. (Thomas, FYI, is the fifth most common.)
Among the discoveries in researching this program:
- G.W. Pabst’s 1933 film, The Adventures of Don Quixote, starring the great Russian basso Chaliapin, which can be viewed online at Archive.org.
- The music of Jacques Ibert, including the darling Little Suite of 15 Sketches, a work accessible to pianists of modest technique.
- Schumann’s Belsazar, five bone-chilling minutes depicting Belshazzar’s Feast and the writing on the wall, from the Book of Daniel.
In addition to Schubert, Schumann and Ibert, Terfel will sing art songs by Welsh composers unfamiliar to American audiences, and a medley of folk songs by Bryan Davies, “the Rachmaninoff of the Rhonda.” Davies’s obituary in The Independent described a telling incident in his final days at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital. “He was called from New York by Bryn Terfel, who sang down the phone. As Terfel’s rich bass-baritone rang around the ward, the man in the next bed said,
‘That boy’s got a voice. He should go on [the TV show] X Factor.’”
My experience with Terfel was also endearing:
Bryn Terfel’s a regular guy
As a glimpse backstage will testify:
As I try to emote
He goes straight for my throat
And chummily straightens my tie.