a playing time of just over 35 minutes a CD today has to be
something very special to be an attractive proposal. This one
isn’t! That may be the reason Sony fails to print the playing-time
anywhere on the cover, let alone the timing of individual tracks.
It seems to be sufficient that José Carreras is singing. So
let’s start there. Carreras is 61. Presumably this disc was
recorded during the last year or so – but we are not told. For
the last twenty years Carreras has been a less than attractive
singer – enthusiastic but coarse. Is he any better here? The
surprising answer is that he is – to some degree. It is true
that he has lost the steadiness he once had. He is decidedly
shaky when the voice is under pressure. The tone is greyed and
he is impressively nuanced and careful with phrasing and there
is quite a lot of sensitive singing. By sheer coincidence I
listened to this disc immediately after the 30-year-old recording
of Turandot with Caballé. Of course the voice has aged
but surprisingly it has retained many of its old qualities.
This also, unfortunately, includes a tendency to be over-indulgent.
Whenever he sings with feeling and sensitivity he more often
than not mars the reading with insensitive shouting. It is very
much a case of “Listen! I am still a star tenor!”. Once he was,
but he isn’t any more. This recital would have been so much
more attractive if he had realized his limitations and given
us a disc with more restrained singing of some undoubtedly attractive
songs. Quite often he is quite sensitive but too often he mars
a seemingly well conceived reading by inserting some gloriously
heroic fortissimo notes that are much more heroic than glorious.
For a tenor of Carreras’s reputation a regrettable lack of taste
is on display.
we do get is a collection of songs from roughly the Belle
Epoque period (1870–1925), some of them rare. This makes
it so much more regrettable that Carreras, with all his fame,
wasn’t able to be a more enticing advocate.
Tagliaferri is a nice song, as is the Zemlinsky, neither of
which I had encountered before, and Schreker, who is a known
quantity as a song-writer, makes a very good impression and
has me longing to hear more of him. By and large, though, Carreras
manages to ruin the songs by shouting them to death; this in
spite of a lot of sensitive singing in between. I just happened
to have at hand Nicolai Gedda’s reading of Satie’s Je te
veux, which is rarely heard sung by a man. Gedda was exactly
the same age as Carreras when he recorded his version, but even
though he also tends to be a bit blustery his is a reading of
great sensitivity a standard that Carreras is nowhere near.
booklet has an essay on the period but no texts and the playing
time is regrettably short. Maybe we should be grateful for that
since Carreras, for all his obvious engagement, is none too
successful in conveying his affection for these songs.
dear reader, while I feel honestly happy that our hero is still
in reasonably healthy voice, this is only for die-hard Carreras
freaks and those who must have everything by Carreras; probably
the same people.