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caught up in the rapture
on 2 September 2013
The Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja can do no wrong as far as I'm concerned, so I have to admit I am quite biased in reviewing this disc. Anyone who heard him live at the Proms last year will surely have been moved by his extraordinary voice, allied to an ardent, unselfconscious temperament that makes him a natural for this kind of heart-on-sleeve repertoire. You feel he really means the full-on romantic sentiment, and his one-in-a-million vocal gift allows him to make it totally convincing and heartrending!
This new CD has been a year coming, and finds him going down a lighter path than in his last tribute to Mario Lanza, Be My Love, which in itself was lighter that his previous more purely operatic discs. The emphasis here is on the beautiful tune bursting forth spontaneously and within a fairly narrow range stylistically. It starts in a subdued manner with two charming numbers, Tosti's La Serenata, which I didn't know, and Besame Mucho, which everyone knows. Personally I love Dalida's version of this classic and Calleja can't match her shimmying, willowy form on stage, perhaps, but as with everything the sound is so beautiful he convinces you this is THE version as you listen. By track four he has risen to a massive crescendo of superb intensity in Dalla's Caruso, cushioned by a sonorous orchestral backing. Two songs by film composer Ennio Morricone come across particularly well, one of them a duet with Nicola Benedetti on the violin, called Mattinata. Another duet with her is an arrangement of the slow movement of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez, which is very heavy-sounding after the airiness of the original, but actually sustained and impassioned in a way I'm sure Rodrigo would have liked. The numbers are nearly all highly memorable and emotional, concluding with Tchaikovsky's None but the Lonely Heart and an arrangement of a Chopin Etude, before a tasteful but powerful rendering of O Sole Mio. I would say this disc is absolute confirmation that Calleja is incomparable. His timbre can touch you in a unique way, and he spins pure gold out of every song he gives his voice to.