COMPOSERS: Bach,Berlioz,Bernstein,Faure,Franck,Handel,Mozart,Poulenc,Reger &Humperdinck,Schubert,Works by Gounod
ALBUM TITLE: Sacred Songs
WORKS: Ave Maria; Simple Song; Wiegenlied
PERFORMER: Renée Fleming (soprano), Susan Graham(mezzo-soprano); London Voices; RoyalPO/Andreas Delfs
CATALOGUE NO: 475 6925
It’s odd how often would-be bestsellers such as Renée Fleming’s collection of Sacred Songs trot out the spurious and the suspect: the ‘Handel’ forgery ‘Dank sei dir, Herr’ (attributed here to Siegfried Ochs), Schubert’s Ave Maria adapted to the words of the Latin prayer, Bach’s Jesu, joy of man’s desiring and the outer verses of Berlioz’s ‘Shepherds’ Farewell’ treated as solo rather than choral music, Bernstein’s ‘Simple Song’ stolen from the male Celebrant of his Mass, the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria and Franck’s Panis angelicus souped up by Chris Hazell’s orchestrations. Numbers from Handel’s Messiah, the Fauré Requiem, the Poulenc Gloria and church music by Mozart have greater legitimacy. But it’s only in the overt Romanticism of Reger’s Mariä Wiegenlied (in his own orchestration) and Humperdinck’s ‘Evening Prayer’ (with Susan Graham) that Fleming sounds completely at home. Elsewhere, that wonderful creamy voice is too often curdled with covered and squeezed tone, swoops and scoops and a fluttery vibrato. The orchestral support is pretty lacklustre, too, and the recording, close-miked in a church acoustic, sounds artificial. But what does a mere critic know? It’ll probably sell a million.