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Song Recital

Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1887)
Vier ernste Gesänge (Four Serious Songs) Op.121 (1896) [17:49]
Denn es gehet dem Menschen wie dem Vieh
Ich wandte mich und sahe an alle
O'Tod, wie bitter bist dim
Wenn ich mit Menschen - und mit Engelszungen redete
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1825)
Der Wanderer an den Mond, D.870 [2:28]
Auf der Donau, D.553 [3:15]
Der Schiffer, D.536 [2:04]
Der Wanderer, D.489 [5:24]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
L'Horizon chimérique, Op.118 (1921) [8:22]
La mer est infinie
Je me suis embarqué
Diane, Séléné
Vaisseaux, nous vous aurons almés
Gerald FINZI (1901-1956)
Earth and Air and Rain Op.15 (1928-35)

Rollicum-rorum [2:00]
To Lizbie Browne [4:37]
Lowlands (Sea shanty) [3:51]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
Sea Fever [2:07]
Frederick KEEL (1871-1934
Trade Winds [2:17]
Michael HEAD (1900-1976)
The Estuary [5:05]

Jonathan Lemalu (bass-baritone)
Roger Vignoles (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Suffolk January 2002  
EMI CLASSICS 2081232 [60:46] 


Experience Classicsonline

This was originally released on EMI’s ‘Debut’ series, the catalogue number of which was 7242 5752032, and is now re-issued. In the last six years Lemalu’s profile has risen appreciably so his admirers and others should note this state of play and not be seduced into thinking this a new release. 

Evenness and sonorousness of vocal production were always there, seemingly. I happened to have heard a youthful appearance given by Lemalu with the London Pro Arte Orchestra and East London Chorus and even then it was apparent that he was going places. It may even have been around the time he made this recording with Roger Vignoles. His Brahms is powerful and noble of utterance and if one finds his singing of the Four Serious Songs to a degree under-characterised they lack for little in resonant control. The third however is strongly projected. The Schubert quartet was well chosen. It was a question of what best suited his voice, temperament and expressive qualities. They give a fair indication of his promise and suit the voice well. I particularly enjoyed Der Schiffer which is probably the best pointed of the four.

He cast an exploratory vocal net in this recital and also presented L'Horizon chimérique. He manages softly to lighten his big voice in La mer est infinie but something of the conversational freedom of the writing eludes him as it does throughout the cycle. It’s at best a very partial viewpoint. When we turn to Finzi we are on safer linguistic ground. There’s plenty of verve in Rollicum-rorum where he even overdoes articulation and underlines certainly words – ‘modesty’ for one – in a way that breaks up the line. To Lizbie Browne suffers a little from the rather unyielding darkness of the voice; it as yet admits of little sense of loss and pain. Lemalu sings it, perhaps as he must, as a young man singing theoretically not as Hardy’s stricken, regretful older man realising ‘I let you slip…’. 

There is also the salt spray of a quartet of English sea songs  - Ireland, Keel, Head and the Roger Vignoles-arranged Lowlands, a sea-shanty. It’s especially fine to hear Michael Head’s The Estuary with its semi-parlando central section. 

A welcome re-release then of a youthful talent. Vignoles accompanies with great sympathy and perception. There are no texts.

Jonathan Woolf



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