LABELS: RLPO Live
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Willard White
PERFORMER: Willard White (bass-baritone), Bonaventura Bottone (tenor); Royal Liverpool PO & Choir/Carl Davis
CATALOGUE NO: RLCD 204
Fans of Willard White will find the RLPO’s tribute to the Jamaican bass-baritone in its 1998 New Year’s Eve gala an attractive proposition. But, although this disc certainly reminds us of White’s versatility, it hardly does justice to the full scope of his expressive powers.
Within the mainstream classical repertoire, Carl Davis and the RLPO cruise their way through the orchestral accompaniment to a skittish, lightweight ‘Fin ch’han dal vino’; a somewhat awkwardly inflected Mephistophelean Serenade from Gounod’s Faust; and, with tenor Bonaventura Bottone in tow, probably not the most ardent Pearl Fishers duet you’ve ever heard.
This disc also gives Davis the chance to present world premiere recordings of two of his own works. His arrangements of three spirituals are impressive: the poignant, even grim harmonic underlay of ‘Go down, Moses’ is reinforced by a chillingly stern performance. And Davis cunningly picks up resonances of exile and nostalgia from Dvorák’s own new world in ‘Deep River’. Davis’s setting of Whitman’s ‘On the Beach at Night Alone’ is a soft-focus barcarolle in which Broadway nods to the more pious strains of the Victorian English choral tradition. White also offers stylish performances of five of Copland’s Old American Songs, and three big lollipops from Broadway. Hilary Finch