Luciano Pavarotti, the best-selling classical artist of all-time, recently celebrated his 40th anniversary as a recording artist and has just begun his 40-date worldwide farewell tour that will kick off in the US. Luciano Pavarotti-The Best, is a 2-CD set highlighting 40-years of recordings and includes bonus tracks from his 1964 Decca debut. 2005.
Anyone discovering this album who had never heard or heard of Luciano Pavarotti would immediately recognize greatness, a one-of-a-kind, one-per-generation (maybe) talent and personality that commands attention, respect, and yes, even love. These 35 selections are an astonishing achievement: Taken, for the most part from the tenor's prime--the 1970s and '80s (although there are four earlier and three from 2003)--what we hear is golden tone, impeccable diction, an innate sense of style and line and where the music should be going, absolutely natural phrasing, an evenness of production from C to (shining) C, and an ability to communicate warmth, passion, and the sheer love of music-making. The first CD is devoted to opera, with a dazzling "La donna e mobile," a smooth-as-silk "Una furtive lagrima," the famous aria from "La fille du regiment" with nine high Cs, "Nessun dorma" and many more. The second CD is mostly songs ("Torna a Surriento," "La danza," "O sole mio," etc.) sung with élan and flawless style, plus a couple of ghastly pop tunes (from 2003); to make up for them, we get a bonus--the three arias from Pavarotti's first EP from Decca, recorded in 1964--"E lucevan le stelle" and two arias from Rigoletto. Bravo, Pavarotti--we miss you already. --Robert Levine