Joshua Bell Hits #1 on Billboard Classical Chart with Red Violin Concerto (And Where's Pavarotti?)

Classic Arts News   Joshua Bell Hits #1 on Billboard Classical Chart with Red Violin Concerto (And Where's Pavarotti?)
How very odd, in light of the big news story reported everywhere last week, to check this week's Billboard classical chart and find not a single title by Luciano Pavarotti anywhere on it.

There is indeed a new release in the no. 1 slot — John Corigliano's Red Violin Concerto, based on his score to the film and starring Joshua Bell with conductor Marin Alsop and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Also new on the chart are the latest release by crossover violinist Andr_ Rieu, Radio City Music Hall: Live in New York (no. 5) and a two-disc compilation titled The Essential Mario Lanza (no. 20)

There's no older Pavarotti disc listed as re-entering the chart, either: the only re-entry is No Boundaries (no. 22) by the piano-playing siblings The 5 Browns.

(Last week's chart debutante, pianist Simone Dinnerstein's recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations, slipped to no. 3, just behind the aria-filled soundtrack CD to the comedy film No Reservations, still at no. 2, and ahead of the Yo-Yo Ma/Silk Road Ensemble title New Impossibilities, now at no. 4.)

And where is the late, lamented Luciano?

On the Billboard 200, as it turns out. The record industry magazine's flagship list of the top-selling titles in all genres has two releases by the late star, both appearing in the top 200 for the first time this week: Luciano Pavarotti: The Best (Farewell Tour) at no. 76, and Luciano Pavarotti: The Greatest Tenor of All Time at no. 150. (The Comprehensive Albums Chart, which includes titles carried exclusively by certain outlets such as WalMart of Starbucks as well as those sold via standard retail, has The Best at no. 78 and The Greatest at no. 172.)

It probably won't surprise you to learn that these are the only classical titles on the overall charts.

Big Lucy (as the London tabloids once christened him) has been doing even better digitally: the Farewell Tour album is no. 4 on Billboard's chart of the top 25 download albums, and "Nessun dorma," the aria from Puccini's Turandot that became a Pavarotti trademark, is no. 68 on the chart of downloaded singles.

So why aren't these discs on the classical chart? Billboard's primary core classical chart only covers full-price releases (which is why Naxos discs so rarely turn up there). The separate classical midline and budget charts are dominated most weeks by various titles from the Baby Einstein series and such catchall compilations as Classics for Relaxation and The Only Classical CD You Need (which is why we don't report on those charts most weeks).

But this week Pavarotti is all over the classical budget and midline charts. The Greatest Tenor of All Time is the top budget title, and he has five more discs in the budget top ten (including the original Three Tenors release, at no. 3). On the midline chart, Pavarotti features on seven titles in the top 15: the Farewell Tour disc is at no. 1 and a "Best of" collection at no. 2, with Three Tenors releases at nos. 3 and 7; a collection of highlights from the legendary 1972 recording of Turandot starring Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland and Montserrat Caball_ is at no. 10.

Happily, CD buyers are remembering another departed opera great as well: a disc titled Beverly Sills: The Great Recordings has returned to the midline chart at no. 15.

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