Brahms • Schubert • Fauré • Finzi • Ireland • Keel • Head

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Faure,Finzi,Ireland,Keel & Head,Schubert
LABELS: EMI Debut
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Jonathan Lemalu
WORKS: Songs
PERFORMER: Jonathan Lemalu (bass baritone); Roger Vignoles (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDZ 5 75203 2

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Jonathan Lemalu is one of the fastest-rising stars in the musical firmament at the moment: a burly New Zealander of Samoan roots, whose robust personality brings larger-than-life resonance to a voice of both depth and discernment. With a seriously full concert and opera diary ahead of him, Lemalu now also possesses a significant calling card in this new EMI Debut recital disc. Roger Vignoles, no less, is fellow traveller over terrain particularly close to Lemalu’s heart; and he even offers his own eloquent arrangement of a sea shanty for his young charge. Brahms’s Four Serious Songs provide the stamp of substance, with Lemalu’s true bass range providing great beauty of line as well as solidity and soul-weight. As yet, though, he can’t quite compete with the likes of Thomas Quasthoff, among recent recordings, for sheer intensity of verbal and expressive close-focus. His four Schubert ‘wandering’ songs show this to be a mark of his Lieder-singing at present: it’s not so much a vocal shortcoming, as slight imaginative shortfall. But Faure’s L’horizon chimérique sees that effortless legato propelling Lemalu’s bass-baritone with a confident sense of style. And, as what he calls the ‘oceanic current’ carries him to the English songs of Ireland’s ‘Sea Fever’, Frederick Keel’s gentle ‘Trade Winds’ and Michael Head’s haunting ‘The Estuary’, Lemalu pulls more potently at the heartstrings.

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Hilary Finch