It’s far from being a Rogues’ Gallery, the array of paintings which line the walls of the Director’s Lounge and the dressing-room corridor at Symphony Hall.
In fact it’s a line-up of some of the greatest classical performers who have graced the stage of one of the world’s finest concert-halls since its opening 22 years ago.
From memory, and in no particular order, their numbers include Simon Rattle, Cecilia Bartoli, Jessye Norman, Sakari Oramo, Alfred Brendel, Kyung-Wha Chung, Kiri te Kanawa, Jose Carreras, Kurt Masur, and Riccardo Chailly, and in the offings is a capture of Andris Nelsons in action conducting the CBSO (no composers or critics, yet, however).
They are all the work of Norman Perryman, who has himself performed on the Symphony Hall stage, painting “live” to a performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition by the CBSO conducted by Simon Rattle, and who also created the swirling and sensitive Dream of Gerontius mural which graces the Symphony Hall foyer, as well as The Mahler Experience encapsulating the significance of that composer’s Resurrection Symphony in the history of this remarkable concert-hall. There is also a wonderful evocation of Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
And on Friday, a new face will appear among Symphony Hall’s ranks of Perryman paintings, that of Bryn Terfel, the much-loved bass-baritone who is always such a welcome visitor.
The commission has come about through the generosity of Jayne Cadbury via the George Cadbury Trust. Norman tells me the background to this, his 28th painting for Symphony Hall.
“When Bryn Terfel was performing Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman at La Scala in Milan, I flew down from my home in Amsterdam to chat about this exciting new commission for the Birmingham Symphony Hall Collection – a painting of himself!
“We quickly agreed that a watercolour of him in performance would be a more creative approach than just a conventional portrait.
“The leading role of the Dutchman in Wagner’s opera Der Fliegende Holländer had already become another of Bryn Terfel’s acclaimed interpretations, so the choice was obvious,’’ he explains.
‘‘The painting was inspired by fragments of the Dutchman’s role that Bryn sang to me in our portrait “sitting” in a Milan apartment. Since then, I’ve been playing this opera continuously in my studio (and every other recording Bryn has made!).
‘‘My paintings are always driven by the music and I delved deep into the intense emotions of the plot, from depression to disappointment, ecstasy and tragedy. It gets quite exhausting.
“I put together my own impressions of Bryn as the Dutchman, with a seaman’s hands, tanned complexion, long hair and leather long-coat and with a somewhat ambiguous expression, somewhere between desperation and a glimpse of hope.
“Bryn’s phenomenally expressive voice and his dramatic stage presence made the creation of this painting a very intense experience.”
Norman explains why he was so keen to capture Bryn on canvas.
“I share some Celtic roots with Bryn (my mother used to sing to us in Welsh) and I’ve wanted to paint him for years. I’m so thrilled that my watercolour of this great bass-baritone, when it’s unveiled on June 7, will now have a rightful place in this unique collection.”
And finally Norman reveals Bryn Terfel’s own reaction when he first saw the painting.
In an email, Bryn wrote: “Just opened the painting on my laptop and I love it! You soooo (sic) got the character, my ear, my eyes and what’s impressive I think is the hands. What is also really great is that I see my dad in this painting. Really uncanny. I think it will look fabulous next to Dame K and José!! Many thanks, man. Bryn”.