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Edmond Clément (tenor)
With Frank La Forge (piano) and other unidentified accompanists
Recorded 1911-26
MALIBRAN MR 563 [2 CDs 69.59 + 73.40]

Jules MASSENET (1843-1912)

Manon – En fermant les yeux
Werther – Pourquoi me reveiller
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)

Le Roi d’Ys – Vraiment ma bien aimée
Benjamin GODARD (1849-1895)

Jocelyn – Berceuse
Dante – Nous allons partir with Geraldine Farrar (soprano)
Georges BIZET (1838-1875)

Les Pêcheurs de perles – Au fond du temple saint with Marcel Journet (bass)
Giacomo MEYERBEER (1791-1864)

Robert le Diable – Du rendez-vous with Marcel Journet (bass)
Charles GOUNOD (1818-1893)

Roméo et Juliette – Ange adorable with Geraldine Farrar (soprano)
Arrigo BOITO (1842-1918)

Mefistofele – Lontano, lontano with Geraldine Farrar (soprano)
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)

Amadis de Gaule – Bois Epais
Francois-Adrien BOIELDIEU (1775-1834)

La Dame Blanche – Viens, gentille dame
Jules MASSENET (1843-1912)

Manon – Le rêve
Manon – Ah fuyez, douce image
Werther – O nature
Werther – Pourquoi me réveiller
Leo DELIBES (1836-1891)

Lakmé – Fantasie, aux divins mensonges
Lakmé – Viens, dans la forêt profonde
André MESSAGER (1853-1929)

La Basoche – Je suis aiméde la plus belle
La Basoche – A ton amour
La Basoche – Villanelle quand tu connaitras Colette
La Mage – Soulève l’ombre de ses voiles
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)

Cavalleria rusticana – Sicilienne
Jean-Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Au clair de la lune with Geraldine Farrar (soprano)
Jules MASSENET (1843-1912)

Sonnet matinal

Ca fait peur
Il neige

Bergère légère

L’adieu du matin

En passant par la Lorraine
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Sous ta fenêtre with Geraldine Farrar (soprano)

Les Rameaux

Jeunes fillettes
L’amour s’envole
Hector BERLIOZ (1803-1869)

Les nuits d’été – L’absence
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)


Les Filles de la Rochelle

Il neige
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)

Clair de lune
Poéme d’un jour; Adieu
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)

Die Forelle (as La truite)
Francesco CAVALLI (1602-1676)

Fuyez, jeunes filles


Il est d’étranges soirs
Reynaldo HAHN (1874-1947)

Cimitière de campagne
D’une prison

Hélas, c’est près de vous
Edvard GRIEG (1843-1907)

Je t’aime

Il primo amore
Charles KOECHLIN (1867-1950)

Si tu le veux

Je ne veux que des fleurs
Giovanni Battista MARTINI (1706-1784)

Plaisir d’amour

Edmond Clément (1867-1928) was one of the leading French lyric tenors of his generation. Though on stage he remained somewhat circumscribed in his roles – Hoffmann, Don José and the established lyric assumptions – he did sing in the premieres of Gounod’s Mireille and Pierné’s La Fille de Tabarain. His early base was the Opéra-Comique and the Salle Favart, with temporary excursions to the Met (in 1909 in the roles in which he was most admired, Werther, Des Grieux, Fenton) and Boston. He continued his opera and recital appearances until 1927, dying the following year.

He recorded quite extensively and as a result maybe Clément tends to be taken for granted. Nevertheless his was an uncommonly fine voice that reveals many beauties and subtleties characteristic of that now extinct breed, the French lyric tenor. He was certainly an expressive singer – this was noted by his contemporaries – and had superb diction, which was never foisted on the listener or over-italicised. He had command of coloratura with a sound technique to support it and good breath control. He was a master of rubato (see the sides with Farrar who is not quite his equal at it, at least here) and of rallentando and the voice, whilst clearly small, was equally clearly capable of projection. If the Met didn’t re-engage him after 1910 it may have had more to do with the vogue for Italian tenors and repertoire than any limitations in Clément’s voice or stage magnetism (though it is undeniable that he must have lacked the sheer heroism and heft of his Italian counterparts).

Malibran have compiled a two CD set of his Victors and Pathés. They therefore only come into partial competition with Marston which has released a similar 2 CD set but containing the complete Victors and Odéons. The Victors (1911-13) therefore overlap but the rest of the set differs, Marston going for the earlier recordings made in 1905 and Malibran concentrating on the later Pathés (1916-26). Highlights here? Too many to mention but let’s consider a few. I mentioned excellent breath control earlier so I must immediately contradict myself and say that it’s not under such control in the extract from the Victor Manon – but what a personable singer he is and despite the sense of strain in the higher register what an elegant and attractive performance this is. Similarly his Godard Jocelyn, much mucked about by slithering string players, retains in Clément’s performance a rather beautiful and unsullied lyricism and genuine sense of legato. The Boito duet with Farrar is equally special; he managing to provoke feeling rather more than she, the voices – perhaps improbably – matching well together. His Messager shows the sheer elegance and nobility that he could cultivate, the 1913 Victor of the Lully meanwhile emphasising his sovereign command of pacing and rubato.

Bemberg’s Ca fait peur aux oiseaux has drunk deeply from Reynaldo Hahn – or maybe the influence was the other way around - and brings with it intimacy and a kind of keening head voice (his head voice was not always perfect but it was invariably sensitively deployed). His Arcadet shows the jaunty, masculine side of Clément’s nature and he can easily encompass the folkloric charm of Weckerlin as well as the desolate strangeness of parts of Roubaud’s Il est d’étranges soirs. His Hahn has plenty of brio and style and the more famous settings by French contemporaries are all idiomatically and convincingly enunciated.

Generally the copies are good though there is wear on some of the 1916-19 Pathés and I can’t say they’re state of the restorative art. If you need to make a decision between Malibran and Marston one would point out that Malibran’s notes consist of a concise but small paragraph whereas Marston’s sports a full booklet and that on balance theirs are the better transfers. However Malibran give us a later set of recordings and they’re not noticeably inferior in terms of technique or temperament. Maybe this is a suitable case for the Clément completist needing to have them both.

Jonathan Woolf

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