V2530. EDMOND CLÉMENT: Songs & Duets (w.Farrar) by Lully, Weckerlin, Martini, Cavalli, Paer, Koechlin, Debussy, Hahn, Berlioz, Widor, Roubaud, Pessard, Dubois, Arcadet, Massenet, Bemberg, Fauré, J.B. Faure, Barbirolli, Grieg, Schubert & Schumann; Arias & Duets (w.Farrar & Journet) from Amadis de Gaule, Roméo, Manon, Le Roi d’Ys, Jocelyn, La Basoche, Le Mage, La Dame Blanche, Robert le Diable, Les Pêcheurs de Perles, Werther, Dante, Cavalleria & Mefistofele. (France) 2-Malibran 563, recorded 1911-26, Pathé & Victor. [It is a wonderful experience to hear Clément's four rare electrical Pathé recordings; sheer enchantment in these marvelous displays of the now extinct French style.] - 3760003775639
“… make no mistake, Edmond Clément (1867-1928) was one of the legends whose recordings live up to his press. A Warot pupil at the Paris Conservatoire, he was considered star material at an early point in his career, making his début in 1889 as the tenor lead in Gounod's MIREILLE at l’Opéra Comique. Clément remained a member of that company for 38 years, and its lead tenor for 20. Unlike many of his colleagues, he accepted engagements at prestigious opera houses abroad, including those in Brussels, Monte Carlo, New York City, Madrid, and Boston….Clément's notices ranged from positive to laudatory. Such words as fastidious, polished, elegant, exquisite, stylish, and refined repeatedly appear in reviews of his opera performances and concerts.
Fortunately, Clément recorded extensively. His releases fall broadly into three sets, grouped chronologically by company: French Odéons from 1905, Victors, and Pathés, the last of which were recorded in 1926 - the year before his final recital at the age of 60, and two years before his death. This Malibran release excludes the Odéons, but covers the rest.
These records reveal a voice that, even as caught in the tenor's mid-40s through late-50s, retained its focus and attractive, lyric timbre. It might be called luminous with no stretch of the imagination: the melody floats seemingly without effort in ‘Plaisir d'amour’ of 1916, Clément's tonal beauty overcoming the primitive technology….[The tenor's 1916 recording of] ‘Viens gentile dame’…is a wonderful demonstration of both perfect vocal emission, and evenness throughout his range….Clément wisely stuck to singing what he knew well and seldom ventured outside his cultural sphere. Of the exceptions to be heard here, his 1916 ‘Sicilienne’ from CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA is a vigorous, full-voiced reading, in French, with a touch of flexible phrasing….Better is a ‘Lontano, lontano’ from 1913 with Geraldine Farrar. The pair recorded four duets that year. This is the best of the lot, with the voices blending better than one might expect, given their dissimilar training regimens. Clément is an exemplary colleague, who can be heard diminishing his volume when Farrar…has the melody, and sings with caressing warmth throughout….Clément…was in many ways one of those recording artists who would have recalled the best traditions of a vanishing past, as musical tastes drastically changed….He interprets, but never ventures outside the musical line. Within it, he occasionally slurs for effect, lengthens and accents a note, softens or strengthens his sound, colors his voice briefly with more vibrato, or starts a phrase slightly before or after the note - all of which show up in his 1920 recording of ‘A ton amour’ from Messager's charming LA BASOCHE. His is a self-effacing art that, like Schipa's, consistently draws one back after sampling to wonder what curious alchemy is his that, with seemingly scant effort, manages to transform whatever it touches into a uniquely personal experience….
The Victors generally have very clean surfaces and relatively mild filtering. I'd expect the Pathés to have more mechanical noise, and so they do, but they also demonstrate a need (at times, severe) for equalization and really good remastering….This release is made all the more important in that the Pathés are not easily located in print. Arguably for all their late date they're the worst sounding of Clément's phonographic material, but they also contain a wealth of traditional, 19th and 20th century songs he never otherwise recorded….Malibran's album is well worth the purchase to anyone interested in classic French singing….available from Norbeck, Peters & Ford (www.norpete.com).”
- Barry Brenesal, FANFARE
“There are those singers who, despite relatively ordinary careers, are remembered by posterity by dint of having made a few records. Because of their recordings, some artists of yesteryear are even more highly regarded nowadays than they were during their own lifetimes. Not so for Edmond Clément (1867-1928), the famous French tenor idolized by the audiences of the Paris Opéra-Comique….The many recorded documents of his work that we possess have not yet established his rightful place in our collective consciousness. While listening to Clément, one should not expect the immediate impact and solar timbre of a Caruso or a Gigli. Instead, one must go one step further and listen attentively to savor a ray of the moonlight that illuminates his voice, and to discover the poetry and charm of an exquisite artist.”
- Jacques Chuilon, THE OPERA QUARTERLY