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Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

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Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Classical Tribute
09 Nov 2008

Andrew Lloyd Webber — A Classical Tribute

Countless must be the number of true opera fans who have heard well-meaning acquaintances say, "Oh I just love opera! Especially Phantom of the Opera."

Andrew Lloyd Webber - The Classical Tribute

Various performers

Decca 478 0190 0 [CD]

$17.99  Click to buy

Adding injury to that insult, Decca now releases a compilation of “classical artists’” versions of product from that non-operatic composer, Andrew Lloyd Webber. Well, José Carreras, Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming and Bryn Terfel (the latter two as duet partners) can rightfully be called classical artists. So can the composer’s cellist brother, who gets the lead billing: “featuring Julian Lloyd Webber.” However, Richard Clayderman, Katharine Jenkins and Leslie Garrett are crossover artists to begin with, and your reviewer has no idea who “Sissel” is, and exposure to her voice doesn’t prompt a desire to know more.

Eight of the tracks feature Julian Lloyd Webber, and despite the cellist’s ingratiating tone and good taste, he doesn’t do his composer brother any favors. Banal as the lyrics tend to be throughout the sung selections, without the words, the formula-bound triteness of Lloyd Webber’s tunes makes itself glaringly obvious. Evita’s “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” a tune built on repeated notes and sequences, needs some variation to retain interest, but the arrangement here plays it straight through almost 5 interminable minutes. A sweet and simple number from the early Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, “Close Every Door,” sadly reveals Andrew Lloyd Webber’s early promise, before he went for the over-blown drama of Phantom and Sunset Boulevard. So why is only one song included from Jesus Christ Superstar, surely Lloyd Webber’s best work? At least Julian Lloyd Webber plays “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” with tenderness. The disc’s final tracks, from later shows such as Starlight Express and Aspects of Love, run together, with uninspired tunes and cheesy arrangements. The drums throughout the recording in particular are a sorry affair.

First-class voices only show up the weakness of the material. Terfel and Fleming sound great, but a song such as “All the Love I Have” is the musical equivalent of two great actors reciting a nursery rhyme. And the chief pleasure of hearing Carreras sing “Memory” comes from anticipating the next oddly pronounced phrase to pour out of the Spanish tenor’s golden throat.

Listed as a soprano, Katherine Jenkins sounds more like a mezzo, and at any rate, she is all wrong for “The Music of the Night,” having not the least sense of mystery or sensuality about her. And next to Richard Clayderman, Liberace was Horowitz.

Certainly ALW has his fans, although it has been quite a few years since he has produced any successful new work. So for those who like this sort of thing…here it is.

Chris Mullins

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