Hero & Leander Opus 33 Victor Herbert
A selection of Wynne Evans' favourite music, from traditional Welsh music to Neapolitan songs - explore his album with our guide to each track, complete with Wynne's own words about each individual selection.
Wynne whisks us off into a world of romantic music with this passionate ballad from Austro-Hungarian composer Franz Lehár. It was originally featured in the German operetta, Das Land des Lächelns, as Dein ist mein ganzes Herz. Says Wynne: "This song from Lehár's ‘The Land of Smiles’ was one of the first pieces I ever learnt. It's got the most amazing melody, it’s a big sing with some very tender moments. I remember the first time I heard Fritz Wunderlich singing this and I thought ‘I have to learn that song.'"
There's nothing like a bit of Morricone to tug at the heartstrings. You might recognise this piece as the solo woodwind piece, 'Gabriel's Oboe' - but it's totally transformed thanks to a healthy injection of passion from Wynne, and the beautiful Italian lyrics. "It's not often you see a film and the music has more of an impact on you than the film. The Mission is a brilliant film but this melody tugs at your heart strings like nothing else."
Delicate and gentle, Wynne's take on Joseph Parry's Welsh song shows off a new side to his tenor voice. It's thought to have been based on the 14th century love story between Myfanway Fychan and the poet, Hywel ab Einion. "In my opinion this is the greatest love song written in any language. This is the song every Welsh man grows up with, and I wanted to put it on the album so everyone can hear how beautiful it is."
If there was a prize for the most optimistic track on the album, this song by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion would win, hands down. If Wynne's rousing vocals weren't enough, there's brass aplenty to bolster the booming orchestra. "My mother's favourite song. When my parents opened a derelict theatre in Carmarthen, to be used by and serve the community, this was the song my mum chose as the anthem for the theatre. It will always have a special place in my heart."
Ever since this piece was recorded by the great tenor Enrico Caruso, with the composer, Leoncavallo, at the piano, it's been a concert favourite. Wynne Evans adds his name to the list of great tenors to tackle the tune, including Mario Lanza, Plácido Domingo, Luciano Pavarotti, and José Carreras. "Take your minds back to Italia 1990 and, more importantly for me, The Three Tenors' concert. When I heard this song, it ignited something inside me, and still does to this day. Its full of life."
Novello wrote this popular musical for London's West End in March 1939, telling the tale of a penniless composer and his love for two different women: one, an innkeeper's daughter, the other, an opera singer. "Ivor Novello wrote some magnificent tunes, but I think this one is his best. When I sing this song the emotion wells up inside me. I try to be as tender as I can with it, but we’ve given it a new ‘big’ ending which I think really works."
If you're expecting a rendition of Schubert's well-known Ave Maria, think again. This version by Caccini is altogether more poignant, growing all the more passionate as the piece goes on - accompanied by the haunting strains of a classical guitar. "The first time I sang this was at John Barry’s memorial concert at The Royal Albert Hall. John's wife Laurie wanted to include this piece as it was special to her and John. It's not the usual Schubert or Gounod version that people are used to, its totally different and beautiful."
Moving across to America now, Wynne puts his stamp on a traditional favourite, Shenandoah. This American folk song was originally popular as a sea chanty, but it's reinterpreted here with thick string textures and harps. "It's the first time I’ve really sung this song - I’ve just really admired it from a distance before. I love this tune and the lyrics are so poignant and instant. A beautiful American folk song that I hope we’ve given a new twist to."
Wynne's dulcet tones suit this relaxed Scots song, setting text by Robert Burns. It was written in 1794, but the message still rings true. "I first recorded this song in 2011 for the Queen's Jubilee with the Band of the Welsh Guards. It's one of those tunes I could listen to over and over again. It’s quite tricky to sing because there are big tonal jumps in the melody, but the Robbie Burns words are so gorgeous that it was a must for this album."
Take a trip back to Wynne's Welsh roots with this rocking lullaby. It's got something of a music-box sound to it, thanks to the addition of a glockenspiel and harp. "This is a simple Welsh lullaby, that I’ve grown up with. It's been recorded a lot, but I wanted to bring something new to it and remind everyone that it is a simple lullaby. I love this arrangement that Phil Jewson has done, it reminds me of a musical box that a child might play with. I hope you all fall in love with this lullaby and play it to your children and grand children."
Wynne's one of the first singers to record a version of Karl Jenkins' Adiemus Colores, following in the footsteps of Rolando Villazón who recorded it on the original album. "Karl has been so important for Welsh music that I really wanted to record one of his songs. I started off with Benedictus, but when I heard this song I knew that this was the one for me. It's got a hypnotic melody that has gripped me. Thanks to Karl for letting me record this one."
Finishing the album with a hefty oom-pa-pa, this Neapolitan song is a favourite among operatic tenors. It's even featured in Tom and Jerry! "Neapolitan songs are so important for any tenor, and this one is a good one. It puts a smile on my face just to hear it. We’ve gone all-out Italian on this one, complete with mandolin! Hopefully this will accompany a good pasta for many years to come."