Voice of Nature – The Anthropocene
Songs by Fauré, Grieg, Hahn, Liszt, Nico Muhly, Kevin Puts and Caroline Shaw
Renée Fleming (soprano), Yannick Nézet-Séguin (piano)
Decca 485 2089 56:56 mins
‘Nature has been so good to us: we have not been so good to nature,’ writes Renée Fleming by way of introduction to Voice of Nature. Having found solace wandering the woods during the darkest days of the pandemic, Fleming wanted both to celebrate the joy of nature and address the climate crisis. With music dating from 1844 to the present, the album thus juxtaposes Romantic evocations of nature’s wonders alongside three contemporary works that explore the theme of ecological collapse with subtle power.
The repertoire plays to Fleming’s vocal strengths. While her voice is not as terrifically full as it once was, there remains an exquisite beauty to the sound and a sense of total technical ease. The French songs are a special highlight and showcase Fleming’s silvery lightness of touch, notably in Hahn’s glittering ‘L’Heure exquise’. In turn, the world premiere recordings duly shake up this sense of reverie. Kevin Puts’s ‘Evening’ simmers with anxiety, while Nico Muhly’s ‘Endless Space’ soars and stings, mixing poetry by 17th-century English theologian Thomas Traherne with text by environmental journalist Robinson Meyer. How far such an album can change the world remains to be seen, but with such convincing performances from Fleming and pianist Yannick Nézet-Séguin, this is certainly a commendable venture.