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Brighton Year-Round 2022

Michele Roszak and Lynda Spinney: Love – Its Depths of Joy and Despair

Michele Roszak and Lynda Spinney

Genre: Live Music

Venue: St Nicholas Brighton, Dyke Road


Low Down

Michele Roszak and Lynda Spinney have put together another adventurous programme for St Nicholas based around Spring’s Arrival. Sherwin, Mozart, Lloyd Webber, Hahn, Gershwin, Weill, Brahms, Ireland, Britten and Kern were featured. Sherwin was the encore.


Michele Roszak and Lynda Spinney now attract a loyal following even in a covid hiatus of two years. This is their third recital after the watershed for their six-monthly return to St Nicholas.

Once more the duo come up with a fresh, inventive programme. ‘Love – Its Depths of Joy and Despair’ this October’s theme is helped by Roszak’s supple agility and effortless capacity, as well as a witty acting physicality, particularly in the penultimate work – Britten – where she deploys vocal pyrotechnics an – as elsewhere – sprach or spoken words through the teeth to startling effect.

Roszak’s as ever a singer who holds you whilst pushing her range through the soprano register to a creamy top line. There’s also a mezzo reach that rather suits the Britten and Jerome Kern numbers, but it’s important in most of the (again) nine (with the encore, ten) items here.

Roszak certainly makes you forget she was a mezzo yet possesses the chest register for that too. There’s pathos edging slinky humour, storytelling, above all the ability to touch an audience with themselves. Roszak, using. Mic to introduce the programme, several times saunters down the aisle in a new touch to well touch the audience with her voice.

Spinney’s as ever an ideal partner. Her pianism’s crisp, pointed, delicate, never clangourous except very rarely when required. She’s at home in the French Elysian piano here, recently reconditioned. In the Hahn and Brahms songs Spinney’s virtuosity comes into its own – the latter’s as much a song for piano as voice; and in the Ireland a delicacy and lyric memorability in filigree again featured the piano.

Sherwin topped and tailed this recital. We led off with ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’ with its memorable tug and refrain, a lyric soaring on ‘I’m perfectly willing to swear’ that shows Roszak to advantage and aplomb, especially in the the way she shades the line reflecting the title.

Mozart’s ‘Als Luise di Briefe’ is a young woman consigning a faithless lover’s letters to the flames, he came with fire and will go out wit fire – but does she still possess a flame in her heart? She’s willing to snuff it out. It’s a dramatic little scena, with Roszak and Spinney pointing up how Mozart pinpoints the words, both illustrative of the storyline and showing us Mozart’s overlooked art-songs – then in their infancy – aren’t all to be overlooked.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘An Unexepected Song’ from ‘Song and Dance’ is exactly that, a entle torch-song of infatuation with some sideslips of harmony mirroring the shock of love. Roszak delights in the lilt and catch of this, and enjoys a deeper register too.

Reynaldo Hahn (1875-1947) was the lover and counsel of Proust, famous for many songs including ‘A Chloe’ and a few others, as well as large-scale works. ‘L’Enamourée’ is a man visiting the transfigured passion of his lover in her tomb, recalling how she fits angels’ sings. This hails from the world of Fauré, Duparc, Debussy, Ravel, with a fin-de-siecle feel. There’s a touch of Saint-Saens’ Samson et Delilah seduction song, though Hahn sounds like the greatest master, Duparc. It’s a slow piece, Roszak soaring above gently chiming bell-like piano chords that occasionally ripple and emerge for their own solo moment. Roszak describes this with some reason as the most beautiful song she knows. As it slips into a relative minor from its minor-keyed world, then returns, we believe her.

‘From the sublime..’ Roszak says and we mve to an old standard Gershwin’s 1935 ‘Let’s Call the Whole tHing Off’ of the miscegenation between pronouncing English ad American, done with style, wit and pointing up each joke. ‘Let’s call the calling-off off….’

Kurt Weill moved to the States and his style changed. His one opera from 1947, Street Scene is a heartrending powerful drama, without the obvious catchiness of even his Broadway work. It’s serious and searing: ‘What Good Would the Moon Be?’ digs into an oblique lyricism and an opera self Roszak can only hint at within these confines. What would the world be without love? But the heroine wrenchingly rejects love and the chance of college at the end, to help her shattered family.

Brahms’ Vergebliches Standchen’ is a witty piece tht might have taught Ken Gershwin ad others, let alone his younger scornful contemporary Hugo wolf, how to be pointed, witty and complete in a fok-song. A man basically moans ‘baby it’s cold outside’ but this young woman slams the window on hi ‘Good night my (unliebe) Herr.’ It’s as sharp as the Mozart, or Britten to come.

John Ireland’s one of the second generation composers of the great  British revival born 1879, the year of Frank Bridge, Hamilton Harty and Thomas Beecham. ‘Her Song’ sets Hardy’s poem of confrontation after seduction, with a baby in arms, but this is in the mind: the lover’s not there, just the ecstatic brevity of the affair. It’s one of Ireland’s most memorable, pieces after ‘Sea Fever’, a real find. It’s an harmonically falling, work, full of dying falls and clearer cut than many of his songs.

Britten’s ‘Tell Me the Truth About Love’ was in many ways the climax to this terrific recital. One of four Cabaret Song to words by Auden, including the famous ‘Stop All the Clocks’, from 1937, this encompasses all of Roszak’s pyrotechnics, words cutting through =, acting wildly and constantly in comic exaggeration, the hesitation before I’m getting on for …. 35’ and all the other embarassing notes Britten and Auden left for Hedley Anderson whom Auden’s friend Louis MacNeice married. Roszak never lets up here, acting, sauntering down the aisle and producing some wonderfully agogic pauses as well as explosive climaxes that show this song isn’t just comic, but tragi-comic and showy, with pathos and knowingness. It’s the best rendition of this gem I’ve ever heard.

Kern reappears in the more romantic ‘Can’t help Loving Dat Man and this unashamedly romantic but also richly memorable  piece is the perfect finale.

And the MC suggested Roszak might sing something else. They hadn’t got anything else prepared, but would the audience nominate a song? Sherwin was chosen, and you wonder anew at its glowing solo piano part sashayed in and out of Roszak’s darkly soaring soprano.

They’ll be back next year for two bookings. In the meantime, what a terrific way to blow the autumn leaves.