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Renee Fleming – Sacred Songs
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
Ave Maria (arr. Gounod & Hazell) (1730) [3’16”]
Jesu bleibet meine freunde BWV 147 (arr. Hazell) (1723) [2’45”]
Siegfried OCHS (1858 - 1929) Dank sei dir, Herr (attrib. Handel) [5’22”]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 - 1828)
Ave Maria D839 (arr. Hazell) (1825) [4’17”]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Laudamus te from Mass C Minor K427 (1783) [4’53”]
César FRANCK (1822 – 1890)
Panis Angelicus (arr. Hazell) (1872) [4’12”]  *
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1750)
He Shall Feed His Flock from Messiah (1742) [5’12”]
Leonard BERNSTEIN (1918 - 1990)
A Simple Song from Mass (1971) [4’06”]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845 - 1924)
Pie Jesu from Requiem (1900) [4’03”]
Francis POULENC (1899 – 1963)
Domine Deus from Gloria (1959) [3’50”]  *
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Laudate Dominum from Vesperae solennes de confessore K339 (1780) [4’22”]  *
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685 - 1750)
Rejoice Greatly from Messiah (1742) [4’40”]
Hector BERLIOZ (1803 - 1869)L’adieu des Bergers from L’Enfance du Christ (1854) [4’09”]  *
Max REGER (1873 - 1916)
Maria Wegenlied  (1900) [2’20”]
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854 – 1921)
Abends will ich schlafen gehn from Hansel and Gretel (1893) [3’30”]
Renee Fleming (soprano)
Susan Graham (Humperdinck)
* London Voices
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Andeas Delfs
Recorded in All Hallows’ Church, Gospel Oak, London, 4–10 April 2005. DDD
DECCA 475 6925 [59’33”]



This is another of those CDs made primarily for commercial rather than artistic reasons, and no doubt is going to make the artist and her record company rub their hands with glee. As always with Decca production values are high and no doubt this will be bought in large quantities to be given out as Christmas presents to family members and friends over the festive season. Whether this disc will delight the many fans of this popular singer is not so certain. This is not a disc of Renee Fleming as you know her. So far, her releases have either been of complete operas or collections of arias from parts of her repertoire. We have been told that opera recordings are now a thing of the past, so I sincerely hope that various opera singers will all be jumping upon the bandwagon to produce discs similar to this one.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this kind of release, and, as the booklet tells us, this is repertoire that Fleming used to sing when she was a young girl. So far, so good. What I have found totally perplexing is how Fleming’s singing style has changed for this disc, which starts me thinking that maybe commercial pressures are more important than the singer’s love of the repertoire. After all, if, as we are told, the soprano had great difficulty in deciding what pieces to choose, why are we left with under an hour’s music. Surely, more could have been found to fill it out, particularly when she loves the repertoire, and there was far too much to choose from. Sounds a little fishy to me.

Apart from much swooping and swooning which I find totally disfiguring, Fleming’s glorious voice is in good shape, and at least all of the items chosen are fairly serious. There is much less “crossover” in this issue than other similarly created collections.

We are told that Fleming and the conductor (Andreas Delfs) were at the Aspen Summer Music Festival in Colorado together and so this recording is a kind of reunion for the two of them. Based upon the evidence, Delfs makes a reasonable job of the accompaniments but by no means could he be thought of as being stretched by the pieces chosen. Similarly, the Royal Philharmonic gets through the “songs” without mishap. Susan Graham, on loan from Warner, joins Renee Fleming for a lovely rendering of the Berlioz, and I suppose that we will next be hearing a similar issue from Graham with help from Renee Fleming!

London Voices also help out on four of the items, and their contribution is also very professional and supports the soloist very well.

As we are currently in a mini renaissance of opera singers, albeit most of whom unfortunately need amplification to sound anything else but strained when singing on the operatic stage, is it predictable that we are going to have to witness more issues like this, rather than the fare which the artists would I am sure rather record? No doubt Renee Fleming will be long remembered for releases like Rusalka and the Strauss operas, rather than this disc but she will probably make more money out of this one.

A very enjoyable disc within reason, provided you like the repertoire.

John Phillips

see also Review by Colin Clarke



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