Lesley Garrett - The Gold Collection
As we have known for many years now, Lesley Garrett is a gifted and accomplished light soprano, good in Handel and Mozart and eminently successful in giving to a public which otherwise would probably be alienated or indifferent a taste of the enjoyment to be found in popular ‘classical’ music. Her singing is scrupulously clean in style, and in itself never sullies the repertoire in the way favoured by some other popularisers or modernists. If there is a general criticism, it is (surprisingly) that the voice and the artist’s expressiveness are in fact rather lacking in character; still, a thousand times rather that in this kind of context than an overload of personality.
The two CDs comprising the ‘Gold Collection’ and the single disc titled ‘Tranquility’ make pleasant listening in practically every item except the brash, tabloid vulgarity of the title-song from The Phantom of the Opera. When it comes to such emotional arias as those from La Wally, Adriana Lecouvreur and Tosca, the voice and the passion it commands are too slight, but the ‘Doretta’ song from La rondine goes well, and so, for that matter, does ‘Casta diva’.
‘Vedrai, carino’ from Don Giovanni adds a livelier grace to ‘Tranquility’, ‘Rejoice greatly’ (but for its heavy-footed bass) enlivens the first ‘Gold Collection’ CD, and Delibes’ Les filles de Cadix is a beguiling presence (plenty of character in this one) in the second. Another attractive feature of ‘Tranquility’ is the excellence of the various accompaniments, including (for Villa-Lobos) the Anthony Pleeth Cello Ensemble.
‘The Singer’ is another matter. Here, despite the title, the singer is almost submerged by presentation. With evocations of the great outdoors, it is glossy and lush, with about as much fresh air in it as the inside of an old-style super-cinema. Everything is dressed up in somebody else’s clothes. Greensleeves is fitted out with orchestration on loan from Canteloube’s Auvergne. Jerusalem acquires three percussion players whose ostinato makes the climax of Ravel’s Boléro sound delicate. Fauré’s Pavane, heaven help us, becomes music for Arabian Nights.
Sometimes one can admire the ingenuity and even its results, as in the transformation of Let it be into a chorale-prelude, with some stylish piano playing. The trouble then is that one has time to wonder why ‘let it be’ should be considered ‘words of wisdom’ when, depending on what ‘it’ is, they can equally well be words of folly, and quite frequently mean something entirely different (as when junior is trying to throttle the cat). In that last sense, ‘let it be’ has a very present relevance. Somebody should have taken these arrangers of Fauré, Parry and the rest aside and perhaps whispered the words of wisdom to them.