I heard Fleming at the RFH in March 2004 (see review),
I was struck by her narcissism and her shallowness in response
to the texts she sang. Continuing this theme as if by magic,
Decca have issued a selection of 'Sacred Songs'. Normally a
playing time of less than an hour for a full-price disc would
bring complaint. Here, it merely brings relief there's not more
of the same.
of timings, I wonder if someone at Decca has decided that the
attention span for 'the type of people that buy this sort of
stuff' is five minutes? Certainly there is a sequence of some
ten songs, no less, that last around 4-5 minutes. Supermarket
that if one were to browse in a record shop - where presumably
the disc would be in some sort of plastic wrap - the listing
on the back of the case would imply all works are unfettered
originals. Not a word is given about the often sugary arrangements.
One would assume they exist because there is a certain type
of listener that might find Bach, Schubert, Franck and Berlioz
far too hard going in unaltered state. So it is that we begin
with the famous Bach/Gounod Ave Maria in a sort of aural
goo only equalled by the chug-chug of the following 'Jesu, bleibet
meine Freude' - Bach relegated to jaunty lift music.
wonder what an Innocent Ear would do with 'Dank seu dir, Herr'?
And could any ear, innocent or otherwise, find any hint
of gratitude in Fleming's singing? No, only that famous Fleming
all-purpose 'beauty'. Like so much of this 'album' (for such
it is), this sits in a nondescript comfort zone.
Maria unsurprisingly rears its head again - Schubert this time
- in a marketable cure from insomnia ... and that's even before
Fleming opens her mouth.
last, track five brings something a little quicker: Mozart C
minor Mass excerpt. This is identifiably Fleming, of course
(read 'not Mozart') and not all slurs are clean, either. Nice
needs more exposure, of that there is no doubt, but not like
this. With Fleming, he's just going to sound hopelessly and
unfairly over-indulgent and that is, indeed, what happens. Crying
'Enough' to the whole of Bethnal Green by now, it was soul-destroying
to discover another nine tracks left ...
flock is fed with more mush in the Messiah excerpt. Maybe
the Bernstein just passes acceptable, but the Fauré 'Pie Jesu'
is a travesty. No choir-boy, this Fleming sits on the surface
where she is clearly most comfortable.
so it goes on ... and on. The Handel 'Rejoice greatly' has precious
little feel of rejoicing, and precious little Handel either;
this is not a Hazell arrangement, but it might as well be. Closest
to a musical experience is the RPO's piping in the Berlioz which
gives way to more of Fleming's anonymous vocal warmth.
of Susan Graham to donate her talents to the final track ('Abends
will ich schlafen geh'n'). Admittedly one of the less irritating
tracks, it still floats in a sea of anonymity.
this really what the 'Classical Market' is coming to? Don't
know about you, but it frightens me ...