Plácido Domingo

Encanto del Mar: Mediterranean Songs

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Aged 73 when this album was released in 2014, Plácido Domingo certainly had the right to take on, as other singers in this age range have, a collection of popular material that would let his voice relax into its lower ranges. It is taxed when it rises into its former territory, but the album is attractive: not only does the voice retain a characteristic clarity, but Domingo executes the project with the class expected of him. Encanto del Mar is, as the title suggests, a collection of Mediterranean songs, but Domingo does not phone in the usual group of Neapolitan songs, nor even the more distinctive zarzuela material he has recorded in the past. Instead it's a collection of songs ranging from Spain and Catalonia to Cyprus and Israel, in half a dozen different languages, arranged intelligently into an arch shape that begins and ends with limpid melodies and gets into more complicated dialogic conception in the middle. There are a few traditional pieces, but most of the songs are popular compositions of the 20th century that evoke and are rooted in traditional music without being purely of the folk tradition. Domingo catches these layers quite gently and subtly. Sample Aranjuez, track 4, a song with a number of layers: it is a song based on the famed guitar concerto of Joaquín Rodrigo, in turn based on any number of Andalusian antecedents. In short, this album is sure to delight Domingo fans and will hold considerable interest beyond that group. One complaint: the very nice small backing group, featuring guitarist Chico Pinheiro, gets relegated to the small print in the graphics when in fact their work is central to the success of the enterprise.

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