top anyone in the street and ask them - once you've explained that yes, a singer does count as a musician - to name one classical musician and ['11 wager that the answer would be "Pavarotti". He is an artist who inh ab its with ease and acceptance two very different world s - the star performer in both popular perception and among a comparatively small audience of operagoing admirers. And it's a status that has not been won by 'selling out', to use ail increasingly hackneyed and strangely meaningless expression (this month 's I Lombardi is hardly pla ying to the gallery).
Pavarotti's career ha s been a gradual ascent from the young tenor who, so far as British opera-goers are concerned, sang Idamante (not Idomeneo mind) at Glyndebourne in 1964 to his present status through the sort of roles that suited hi s voice at any given moment - and he has always added to his repertoire judiciously. Being an Jta .lian no doubt helped since not only is it for many the language of opera but in Italy the 'operatic' voice can be used to sing all kinds of music - something that you simply can't get away with in the Anglo-Saxon world where there is a distinct break between vocal styles employed in - I hesitate to use these terms - popular and serious music. He also enjoys the ability - something that again seems much more read ily acce pted in Latin countries - to move between different sorts of music with very little 'opposition'. Obsessed as we are with categorization and the raising of barriers within the arts Pavarotti has demonstrated that you can sing Verdi at The Met or La Scala and also stand before hundreds of thousands of people and sing with some of the lead ing rock musicians of the day. (He has been very canny in cloaking his excursions into pop music in the smokescreen or char itable status where it would be decidedly dubiou s to criticize too se riously the artistic merit of these ventures. He has, though, chosen his collaborators well and entered into the spirit of things with great aplomb.)
Stop any reasonably aware classical record collector (and not just a vocal buff) and ask who Pavarotti records for and the answer would almost certainly be Oecca. For Oecca their star tenor has an almost trademark association (like Karajan and OG or The Beatles and EM!). It is interesting that at a time when major companies draw up fewer and fewer truly exclusive contracts (so often they have elaborate mitigating clauses: "for solo recitals", "for Lieder" but never just "for si nging "), Pavarotti , lik e Sir Georg Solti who is celebrating 50 years with one company (probably not coincidentally the same one, Oecca) , demonstrates the benefits of this powerful alliance. In September 1996, PolyGram 's new President of Classics, Chris Roberts was talking in Gramophone (page 23) of the need for individual record labels to establish an image through their artists: "By being more selective of the artists we choose to work with we're able, as a team, to put that much more time into building an intimate rapport with each of them , based upon their own uniqueness and needs. " Words that might ha ve been written about Oecca and Pavarotti . Yet take an artist like Bryn Terfel who must surely be destined to become one of the truly major-selling artists and ask who he 'belongs to ' and there would be considerable conrusion. Just now my answer would be Oecca rather than OG, to whom he is officially contracted. At a time when so few artists have real pulling power it seems a very dangerous precedent to set if you really want to create intense bonds that work on so many more levels than the purely artistic. (OG executives will no doubt be making a lunge for their phones to point out th a t Terfel wanted to work with Solti, and vice versa, and besides there are many more members in the cast than just the Don Giovanni. Granted, but EliJah as well? As Lady Bracknell might have said, "Once may be regarded as a misfortune but twice looks like carelessness".)
No , Oecca got it right with Pavarotti and at the end of the day it is his collections of popular arias which really se ll , not his crossover projects - the music is unquestion ab ly su perior, the accompanying a rtists invariably of the lirst rank and the engineering up there with the best. People want to hear the thrilling sound of the tenor voice delivered with so few hi strioni cs (the odd hankie aside) and so much full-throated ease ~
James Jolly selects ten outstanding COs from this month's reviews
Mondonville Grands motets
Les Arts Flonssants / Christie Erato Choral and song reviews Page 126
Berlioz Les nuits d'ete. Arias Graham; ROHO /
Nelson Sony Classical Chorat and song reviews Page 122
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Moeran String Quartets.
String Trio .Maggini Quartet Naxos Chamber reviews Page 106
Schumann Piano Sonata No. 1. Fan tasie in C
Andsnes EMI Instrumental reviews Page 115
No. 2. Prince Igor Polovtsian Dances, etc RPO / Schmidt Tring Intemational Orchestral reviews Page 60
Du Caurroy Sacred choral works New College Choir, Oxford / Higginbottom Coli ins Classics Choral and song reviews Page 123
. ~ , . Mozart Piano Trios, K496 and K502. Divertimento, K254 Dumay; Wang; Pires DG Chamber reviews Page 109 Rubbra Symphony No. 1. Sinfonia concertante, etc Shelley; BBC Nat Orch of Wales / Hickox Chandos Orchestral reviews Page 88 IZ . , . - .... . >. I \ .... , ·';:·t'·'·~:,:.;', 1,. J~: ~ . ,:'1~GreatOperaScenes , . I\ ~V..; 0rJbftc1to 0 S ~-·I .-. , I . Piano Transcriptions Fleming; LSO / Solti Decca Opera reviews Page 149 Volodos Sony Classical Instrumental reviews Page 118 Gramophone October 1997 1
Mozart Piano Trios,
K496 and K502. Divertimento, K254 Dumay; Wang; Pires DG Chamber reviews Page 109
Rubbra Symphony No. 1.
Sinfonia concertante, etc Shelley; BBC Nat Orch of Wales / Hickox Chandos Orchestral reviews Page 88
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Fleming; LSO / Solti Decca Opera reviews Page 149
Volodos Sony Classical Instrumental reviews Page 118
Gramophone October 1997 1