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Plácido Domingo (vocal)
Pablo Sainz-Villegas (guitar)
Florida Philharmonic LLC (Buenos Aires)/Nazareno Andorno
rec. 2017, AfterHours Studios, Los Angeles; Avatar Studios, New York; Wanna Music LLC , Miami; Watersound Studios, Los Angeles; Metropolis Studios, London; 360 Global Media, Madrid; Ion Studios, Buenos Aires; Villa Manipura Studios, Acapulco SONY 88985416852 [45:31]
Plácido Domingo released his first commercial studio album in 1968, that’s fifty years ago, but long before that, when still a teenager, he appeared on a recording of My Fair Lady, sung in Spanish. That was in 1959 and he was officially a baritone. In the early 1960s he changed over to tenor roles and became arguably the world’s greatest singer in that voice category. After a long career he decided some ten years ago to change back to baritone and, starting with Simon Boccanegra, he could add a number of baritone roles to the 140 tenor roles he had previously taken on. Besides his singing career he has conducted hundreds of opera performances, he has been opera director and he has helped many young promising singers on their way to stardom.
When at age 76 he wanted to return to the music of his roots - Spanish and Latin American songs
- he chose as his collaborator the brilliant Spanish guitarist Pablo Sainz-Villegas, a virtuoso at home not only in the classical field. Pablo was not even born when Plácido started his recording career, but to judge from the result, the age difference was no stumbling-block for their joint music-making. Behind the two front men are, in some numbers, Florida Philharmonic and a whole array of excellent instrumentalists. They provide rhythm and atmosphere – a bandoneón in Carlos Gardel’s Volver creates the authentic tango feeling for instance – but they are backwardly balanced in the recording process, while Pablo Sainz-Villegas’s guitar is right on top of the microphone. He is featured just as much as Domingo, has long introductions to several of the songs and extended solos within the numbers. Three pieces are also for solo guitar: Valeria’s Bossa by Sérgio Assad, who also made the guitar arrangements, Una limosna por el amor de Dias, by the phenomenal Paraguayan Agustín Barrios Mangoré and José Fernández Díaz’s Guantanamera, which of course is a song from the beginning.
The playing is superb and the tremolo in Barrios Mangoré’s piece can hardly be better executed. Maybe I would have wished more nuances, but probably it is the close recording that gives the impression.
Turning now to Domingo himself, there is a remarkable freshness to his voice and the timbre is distinctly what we have known for 50 years. Some of the bloom is gone but on the other hand he is careful about nuances and employs his half-voice elegantly and sings with warmth and feeling. In Almarán’s Historia de un amor (tr. 10) he caresses the phrases enticingly. He avoids the heroic chest-notes – those would kill some of these songs – but he has retained a lot of his power, sings without much strain and his vibrato is well-controlled. Adiós Granada (tr. 5) is certainly impressive. It also seems that he has a particularly warm feeling for Violeta Parra and her song Gracias a la vida (tr. 11), composed shortly before she took her life in 1967 and made famous also by Joan Baez. The opening is soft and sensitive but bit by bit it grows in a slow crescendo to a jubilant end. “Thank you for my life!” His tribute to Carlos Gardel, who died in an airplane crash when he was at the height of his powers, is also touching (tr. 12). There is an incandescent glow there that makes me recall his tango album from 1981.
Don’t expect the virility and golden tone from thirty, forty or fifty years ago, but enjoy the somewhat more small-scale Indian Summer atmosphere that still makes this album glow.
Contents Alvaro CARRILLO (1921 – 1969)
1. Sabor a mí [3:12] Guty CÁRDENAS (1905 – 1932)
2. Nunca [3:26] Sérgio ASSAD (b. 1952)
3. Valeria’s Bossa [3:34] Raul FERRĀO (1890 – 1953)
4. Coimbra [2:45] Tomás Barrera SAAVEDRA (1870 – 1938)
5. Adiós Granada [4:30] Agustín BARRIOS MANGORÉ (1885 – 1944)
6. Una limosna por el amor de Dios [4:30] Carmelo LARREA (1908 – 1980)
7. Dos cruces [5:01] Carlos Castellano GÓMEZ (1904 – 2002)
8. La morena de mi copla [3:08] José Fernández DÍAZ (1908 – 1979)
9. Guantanamera [2:55] Carlos Eleta ALMARÁN (1918 – 2013)
10. Historia de un amor [4:08] Violeta PARRA (1919 – 1967)
11. Gracias a la vida [4:25] Carlos GARDEL (1890 – 1935)
12. Volver [3:57]