I reviewed Jonathan Antoine's first solo album here in 2015 (Sony Classical 8843-08537-2), and found it a great achievement. For readers unfamiliar with his background, they might want to look at that piece for biographical information on the singer. This new disc features the same kind of extraordinary vocalism and a similar kind of eclectic repertory, and that repertory makes it little difficult for some to pin a label on Antoine: is he classical, light classical, pop, Broadway? Well, he's a bit of all of these things and thus what you would call a crossover artist. But, as a classically trained singer, he crosses over into other genres without actually changing his style of singing, thereby retaining his attractive, distinctive operatic voice. That said, he never sounds out of his element in any selection here, as his voice and interpretive sense adapt remarkably well to whatever the style of the music is.
He delivers a very colorful and quite potent account of Canta Pe' Me and follows with a lushly romantic and appropriately sentimental rendition of Bring Him Home. His Puccini is quite convincing: E Lucevan Le Stelle is full of tension and sadness – and beautifully sung – while Che Gelida Manina is full of passion and delivered with such sensitivity to the composer's rich and lovely post-Romantic lyricism. True, his tempo may be a bit on the slow side in the latter aria, but Antoine makes such an excellent case for his way with it that it's hard to resist the flowing beauty of his voice and the music. This is certainly one of the finest performances on the disc.
Antoine sings four numbers by the contemporary composer Chris Broom, whose music he apparently admires. While certain of these, like La Nostra Patria and A New Tomorrow, can come across as a bit schmaltzy, Antoine gives each one his greatest effort and, in a way, does the impossible, making the music sound better than it actually is. Arguably, Antoine gets the most out of the music in each number on the disc, and that is no small feat considering the disparate character of such works as Cohen's Hallelujah and the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria.
I should point out that some of the numbers here feature arrangements that homogenize and sentimentalize the music a bit, but it is all in keeping with the crossover nature of the repertory. The St. Paul's Girls School choir sings well in its two numbers and baritone James Cleverton turns in fine work in La Nostra Patria. The London Studio Symphony play with commitment and accuracy under the baton of James Shearman. The sound reproduction by Cavendish Records, a new label on the scene by the way, is clear and generally quite fine, though once in a while balances may be a bit off, as in the overly prominent clarinet in E Lucevan Le Stelle. But, despite these minor caveats, this disc should prove to be another great success for young Jonathan Antoine. His voice is very versatile, sufficiently powerful and has a velvety, creamy sound that is quite unique. He could be a great operatic star if he wanted, but thus far hasn't chosen that path. Instead, he could be headed toward a career along the lines of Mario Lanza. Having made a comparison of sorts with the great Lanza, I'll go out on a limb and probably anger some Lanza fans by saying I think Antoine has just as attractive a voice and maybe more talent.
Copyright © 2016, Robert Cummings