Renée Fleming - Kudos

Renée Fleming’s ‘Poèmes’ With Alan Gilbert and Seiji Ozawa

The New York Times | June 1, 2012

by Anthony Tommasini

In an introductory note for her recording “Poèmes,” the soprano Renée Fleming writes that “for the sheer sensual joy of singing, no language gives me more pleasure than French.” This album, her most impressive in some time, offers French works for soprano and orchestra by Ravel, Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux.

Ms. Fleming brings an entrancing balance of refinement and ardor to Ravel’s voluptuous song cycle “Shéhérazade,” with Alan Gilbert drawing plush, textured playing from the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France.

It was at Mr. Gilbert’s urging that Ms. Fleming performed Messiaen’s song cycle “Poèmes Pour Mi” as part of his debut program as music director of the New York Philharmonic in 2009. Messiaen wrote this 30-minute song cycle for soprano and piano in 1936 (and orchestrated it the following year) as an ode to his first wife, setting his own poems.

The work is run through with hints of misty Impressionism. But many of the songs have leaping vocal lines and fits of passion, captured vividly by Ms. Fleming in her visceral and dreamy singing.

Mr. Dutilleux, now 96, had the huskier texture of Ms. Fleming’s low range in mind when he wrote his song cycle “Le Temps l’Horloge” (“Time and the Clock”) for her. The piece runs just over 14 minutes; the music is compact, spare and restless, written in a harmonic language you might call soft-edged modernism. This recording is of the work’s premiere performance in 2009, with Seiji Ozawa conducting the Orchestre National de France.

Ms. Fleming’s account of Dutilleux’s “Deux Sonnets de Jean Cassou,” with Mr. Gilbert and the Orchestre Philharmonique, completes this tour de force.

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