Domingo: Songs (CD review)

Placido Domingo, chorus, orchestra, and friends. Sony Classical 88691934932.

Spanish tenor and conductor Placido Domingo (b. 1941) has been making beautiful music since his stage debut in 1959, undertaking over 140 operatic roles, leading any number of orchestras, and recording over 100 albums. The present disc, Songs, is his first pop album in over twenty years.

Looking more and more like “The Most Interesting Man in the World,” Domingo may well be the greatest singer in the world. Heck, he may be the greatest singer of all time; his fans will no doubt agree, and it’s hard to argue against the point. This time out he sings fourteen pop numbers, all favorites of his, on eight of them accompanied by other noteworthy artists: singers Josh Groban, Harry Connick Jr., Zaz, Katherine Jenkins, Susan Boyle, Placido Domingo Jr., actress and singer Megan Hilty, and trumpeter Chris Botti.

Domingo opens the show with “Cancion para una reina,” a love song of exquisite beauty, which the singer caresses with subtle care. Next, we hear “Sous le ciel de Paris” in a duet with Josh Grobin; it’s lighter and a tad more upbeat than the first tune, the two men’s voices blending wonderfully but Domingo’s clearly the more powerful.

“Time After Time” features Domingo with Harry Connick Jr., and it has a breezy Sinatra-like style to it. Although Domingo and Connick have about as different voices as you can imagine, they make it work by approaching it in a casual, easygoing manner.

And so it goes. Among my favorite songs are the aforementioned “Cancion”; then “Come What May,” a duet with Katherine Jenkins; a meltingly affecting “Parla piu piano” from The Godfather; “My Heart Will Go On,” from Titanic, with Megan Hilty; “Eternally,” Chaplin’s song from Limelight; “Jalaousie,” possibly the most famous tango ever written; and a touching duet with Domingo and his son on “What a Wonderful World.”

You can usually sense Domingo holding back somewhat in his duets so as not to steamroll his singing partner. Now in his seventies, he’s still got the strong, mellifluous voice; the impeccable inflections; the emotional range and power; and the pure communications skills of a great vocal artist. He may go on forever; one can only hope.

Sony recorded the songs in 2011 and 2012 at various locations including Avatar Studios, New York City, U.S.A.; Abbey Road Studio 1, London, England; Studio Millenia, Valencia, Spain; CATA Studios, Madrid, Spain; and 71 Recording Studios, Zurich, Switzerland. So, it’s an international project. The sonics are typical of most pop recordings: The vocals are front and center, the orchestra spread out behind very widely but without much depth, transparency, or air. Nevertheless, it’s the voices that count, and they are firm and forceful, with no audible imbalances in the response. There are, incidentally, some nice percussive sounds on “Come What May.”



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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For over 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me--point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, as of right now it comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio High Current preamplifier, AVA FET Valve 550hc or Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

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When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa