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Classical

Jose Carreras

Live Comeback Concerts

[Acanta]

3 1/2 stars

Let’s hear it for the old-fashioned vocal recital, as presented by such singers as Caruso and John McCormack. Jose Carreras’ 1988 comeback concerts, celebrating his almost miraculous recovery from leukemia, follow that populist pattern. The disc begins with Grieg’s “Ich Liebe Dich,” a passionate song people used to hear 80 years ago, but hardly anybody has sung since 1960. And it ends with the highly objectionable but once fashionable “Granada.”

We also get to hear Carreras singing “Nessun Dorma” to piano accompaniment, a Victorian touch.

Carreras was generally considered the lightweight among the Three Tenors. It was understandable considering that the other two were Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. But it sells Carreras’ gifts short. Even as a convalescent, he has an admirable ease of singing, a marvelously smooth and courtly tone, and a beautiful way of shaping his syllables.

He is never on autopilot, either. His heart is in what he sings. The audience’s heart, too, is clearly in it, and the applause is part of the fun as they roar their approval of such songs as Eduardo Toldra’s mournful “Canticel” and Reynaldo Hahn’s “L’heure exquise” as well as arias by Bellini and Scarlatti. The Three Tenors era was kind of fun, you know?

– Mary Kunz Goldman