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Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Classical Editor: Rob Barnett



José CARRERAS
Around the World

Hymne a l’amour
Paraules d’amor
Quando sento che mi ami
Alfonsina y el mar
Kawa no nagare no yoni
Vurria
Kumbaya my Lord
Manhã de carnival
Nosotros A la luz de una luna azul
Hine e hine
Wind of change
With love
Volver
Island in the sun
Sorrow of the red beans
Greensleeves
Senza ritorno (Jeżeli)
Vienna Symphony Orchestra/ John Cameron (2,4,5,8,9,13,16,18),
Paul Bateman (1,3,6,15,17), Christian Kolonovits (7,10,11,12,14)
WARNER CLASSICS 8573-85798-2 [c.63 mins]


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Sounding phonetically confident singing in languages other than his own Spanish (and possibly Italian) is not José Carreras's strong point. Hearing him sing in your own language can be either toe-curling or endearing depending on what you think about him (although I admit there are some I know who go weak at the knees just at the sound of his voice, irrespective of what he is singing, which helps to explain the disc. More of that later).

It is ironic then that José has produced an offering with a global "songs of the world" theme in which he sings in half a dozen languages. But things are not always what they seem. A perverse logic at work has him singing both a Polish song and an English one in Italian and a Russian one in Spanish. He tackles Japanese and Chinese songs in the original, at least I think he does. Greensleeves stays in English which is not necessarily a good thing, or maybe it doesn't matter.

These songs are, one assumes, well known in their native countries although the booklet is uninformative on this point. Each song is listed with credits for producer, publisher, music, lyrics , arranger and conductor - nothing else. However, from this it is possible to work out, for example, that a song called Hine e Hine with music and lyrics by Princess Te Rang Pai is being sung in Chinese and listening to it seems to confirm that- although I wouldn’t swear to it.

The stars of the show are the arrangers John Cameron (who takes the majority), Christian Kolonovits and Frank Peterson. They mostly conduct their own efforts. Custom made for the occasion, a consistency of style is ensured which seems to be aiming at making them all sound the same although minor variation is provided by a tinkling piano here, a throbbing electric guitar there and in the opening Hymne á l’Amour a celestial choir supplied, would you believe, by the Crouch End Festival Chorus. Even the speeds are ironed out so that they nearly all go at a similar pace – medium slow. The skilfully wrought romantic slush stylistically dominates so that even distinguished tunes like Greensleeves start to lose their identity and any national idiomaticisms of the original songs get well banished. Fronted by unquestionably one of the world's great tenor voices ably accompanied by the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the disc is a triumph of lowest-common-denominatorism.

By all accounts José Carreras is sincere about taking steps to target as wide an audience as possible on a global basis and enjoys doing this sort of thing. Previous discs such as My Romance, Passion and Pure Passion, more or less in the pop classic domain, have helped to achieve the goal. With this disc he reaches new heights (or a low, depending on the elevation of your own vantage point). I am not an expert in these marketing matters but I suspect this will carry him, certainly in Britain, into Des O'Connor country where, no doubt, rich pickings are to be made.

I tried very hard to enjoy the music for what it is and wasn’t doing too badly until I began to wilt at no.15 on the Island in the Sun. Bring back Harry Belafonte I cried.

A great deal of skill and professionalism has gone into this production and it must have been an extremely expensive undertaking. Nevertheless, the returns on the investment are no doubt assured thanks to the brand name "Carreras". I expect to hear it piped into my local swimming pool changing room before long.


John Leeman


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