Brighton Year-Round 2019
Michele Roszak and Lynda Spinney have put together another adventurous programme for St Nicholas based around First Love. Gershwin, Fauré, Grieg, Gartlan, Verdi, Traditional Irish Willson, Hahn, Vaughan Williams, Donizetti and Kern were featured.
Michele Roszak and Lynda Spinney now attract a loyal following even in a normally holiday-denuded August for their six-monthly return to St Nicholas.
Yet again the duo come up with fresh, inventive programme. ‘Young Love’ this summer’s theme is helped by Roszak’s supple agility and effortless capacity
Roszak’s as ever a singer who holds you whilst pushing her range through the soprano register to a creamy top line. She makes you forget she was a mezzo yet possesses the chest register for that too. There’s slinky humour, storytelling, above all the ability to touch an audience with themselves.
Spinney’s as ever an ideal partner. Her pianism’s crisp, pointed, delicate and never clangourous except very rarely when required. She’s at home in the French Elysian piano here, newly reconditioned.
Gershwin’s ‘S’Wonderful’ ripples through Roszak’s middle register and floats high, an up-beat to the darker ‘Le Secret’ Fauré’s more deeply-thewed and sadly-wise comment on innocence, sung ardently, accompanied with an undertow of aftermath, Grieg’s ‘Ich Liebe Dich’ is a soaring soprano vehicle and proves yet again Roszak enjoys adding mezzo richness whilst insouciantly rising to the heights of this lyrical ecstasy. It’s still vertiginous.
Gartlan’s faux-naïve ‘The Lilac Tree’ is a tiny gem of the unfamiliar, with a fragile memorability Roszak and Spinney have a gift for reanimating. Verdi’s ‘Perduta ho la Pace’ is more familiar in the Spinning Songs and other Faust-Margaret in Schubert, Berlioz and Gounod. Verdi didn’t craft an opera, just this, and it’s curiously in line with the others: ruminant, more dark than bel-canto, inward and troubled as the piano writing shows too. Really worth rediscovering.
The Traditional Irish ‘Spinning Wheel Song’ is all about the grandmother’s anxiety for the granddaughter who’s gone a bit Edna O’Brien, garnering not one but several kisses and a lot more perhaps from her lover, who might or might not become her husband. Rosak sang this solo, and it’s a thrill to hear her voice alone in this space: evoking a girl falling deliciously out of innocence.
We should know Meredith Willson’s piece ‘Till There Was You’ if we know With the Beatles where Paul McCartney makes it his. Making it hers Roszak restores it to mid-century artsong and reminds us of Willson’s memorable melodic gift that spanned symphonies and orchestral music, all on Naxos.
Reynaldo Hahn’s ‘L’Enamourée’ has claims to be Roszak’s favourite song, and there seems in Hahn’s originality here a kind of ghost of Brahms’ ‘Cradle Song’. It’s a deeply tenebrous tender piece and recalls Fauré as much as Hahn: there’s more fragility thann knowingness evoked, though the same amount of wistful regret as in his other small masterpieces.
The genius of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Silent Noon’ lies in the spellbinding soft, separate chords of the piano invoking that hazy stillness – once Victorian with Dante Rossetti’s words, now Edwardian – as the melodic line curls round it more conventionally. Roszak gives the sense of a language emerging that would soon flower into VW’s mature voice.
Donizetti’s ‘La Conocchia’ returns u to the spinning-wheel and reminds su that like Verdi, Italian operatic composers wrote many songs overshadowed by their larger-scale works. It’s attractive, tuneful and uncomplicated.
Finally ‘You are Love’ from Jerome Kern’s showboat as a built-in encore was mesmerising since Roszak who’d used every register provide yet another. She sang this with not only top ringing notes but a volume that thrilled and even disturbed with its power. A terrific end to blow the summer haze. She’ll be back next March.