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Recordings

Placido Domingo: Be My Love
29 Oct 2006

Placido Domingo — Be My Love

Decca/London was somewhat earlier with their series ‘Classic Recitals’ and now Deutsche Gramophon is following without that title.

Placido Domingo: Be My Love
Granada, Core 'ngrato, Dein ist mein ganzes Herz, Mattinata, Siboney, Ay, Ay, Ay, Be my love, Magic is the Moonlight, Because, Marta, Non ti scordar di me, Jurame, Ich schenk dir eine neue Welt, Amapola

Placido Domingo, tenor; London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Karl-Heinz Loges and Marcel Peeters.

DG 477 619-2 [CD]

$11.98  Click to buy

This was Domingo’s first solo album on DG and it is re-edited the way it appeared thirty years ago, though with one difference with the Decca re-issues. The sleeve notes from the original LP release are reprinted at the inside and are clearly readable, which cannot often be said of many Decca releases where you need a magnifying glass to decipher the text.

Domingo always liked to take an artistic risk and he surely did it on this record. Though he only mentions one name in his sleeve note interview –Mario Lanza – it’s clear that’s he up to some of the most intense competition in his whole career, probably even more than on many an aria recording. Almost all pieces on this record were intimately connected with some of his greatest predecessors: ‘Non ti scordar,’ ‘Core ‘ngrato’ and ‘Marta’ with Gigli; ‘Ay ay ay’ with Fleta; ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’ with Tauber; ‘Mattinata’ with Caruso and Björling; ‘Amapola’ and ‘Munequita Linda’ with Schipa etc. I regret to say but the Spanish tenor fails almost in every of his trials. Of course he set himself some impossible goals. Many a song was composed to bring out the best in a particular voice. Tauber even co-composed a few things with Lehar. But the consequences are there for everybody to hear. Most collectors will have that particular sound in their ears and it needs more than the golden tone Domingo still had at the time to challenge the earlier recordings, as the tenor almost never varies the volume he uses. Out comes a stream of honeyed tenor tone without one original phrase, without a piano or even an occasional mezza-voce. Not that everything was still perfect in Domingo’s vocal production at the time. In ‘Core ‘ngrato’ and ‘Mattinata’ one is immediately struck by the squeezed nasal top, warning of Domingo’s difficulties with high B from 1978 on.

As could be expected, he is at his best when singing his own language, though even there his predecessors win hands down. Miguel Fleta and definitely Tito Schipa had less than half of Domingo’s vocal means and still they make twice the effect: Fleta by his haunting messa di voce in ‘Ay, ay, ay’ and Schipa by rhythmic incisiveness in ‘Amapola’. Domingo is excellent in the lesser known ‘Marta’ but who can compete with the 1932 recording of Gigli?

Domingo always was an admirer of Mario Lanza and back in 1976 it was still not done to do that clearly and loudly. So praise to the Spanish tenor. But we are used to hear that glorious high C at the end of ‘Be My Love’ and that’s a note that never was in Domingo’s vocal armoury (even Gheorgiu sings the note less well than Lanza).

I cannot help thinking that this is one of these records where Domingo looked at the score while flying in, relying on the beautiful sounds he could make and recording at a whirlwind pace. In some of his earlier albums like ‘Perhaps Love’ or later ones like ‘The Broadway I love’, the tenor proved that he could tune down his voice and look for and find the magical phrase that makes these recordings often more interesting than his operatic ones. He is not helped by the orchestra either. The conductors probably wanted to earn a few Deutsch Marks themselves as arrangers and they only succeed in adding syrupy preludes and postludes with rather noisy brass between. Many a tenor has sung the abbreviated version of ‘Core’ngrato’ as an encore in a live recital; but Domingo is the only major tenor to have recorded it that way in an official recording, probably another proof of the haste in which this recital was recorded.

Jan Neckers

  

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