Lovers of musicals usually fall into either the Broadway camp or the Lloyd Webber camp. The skirmishes between the two are frequent, bloody and pointless. It’s simply a case of incompatible sensibilities: Webber writes modern light opera (i.e. all dialogue is sung) with an operatic, often overblown sense of drama and pathos; Broadway shows traditionally interleave spoken dialogue with musical numbers, highlight the pizzazz of the performer and wield a sense of irony absent in Webber’s work.
But even fans of Webber may be a touch disappointed by this double CD, in which many beloved songs are rendered as instrumentals. Starlight Express, The First Man You Remember and I Don’t Know How to Love Him are performed by the likes of cellist Julian Lloyd Webber and André Rieu.These instrumentals sound dangerously like elevator music. Fortunately, for the tracks that are sung, Decca has deployed some of the finest voices you could desire. Sarah Brightman tackles Whistle Down the Wind; Anna Netrebko sings the Pie Jesu from the Requiem; Renée Fleming and Bryn Terfel croon the enchanting duet All the Love I Have from The Beautiful Game. In short, there is one fabulous disc’s worth of music on this 2-CD set.