Renée Fleming POÈMES out on Decca March 6th

On March 6, 2012, Decca releases an album of 20th-century French vocal masterpieces sung by the iconic American soprano Renée Fleming. On Poèmes, Fleming’s first solo album of classical repertoire since 2009’s GRAMMY award-winning Verismo, the “consummate musician” (New York Times) performs Ravel’s ravishing 1903 song cycle for soprano and orchestra, Shéhérazade, together with Olivier Messiaen’s collection of love songs to his young wife, Poèmes pour Mi. Fleming is joined in these two works by conductor Alan Gilbert with whom she performed the Messiaen for the New York Philharmonic’s Opening Night in 2009. Gilbert leads the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France here. Seiji Ozawa and the Orchestre National de France then join Fleming for the dramatic Le Temps l’horloge, composed for her by the doyen of French composers, Henri Dutilleux. Dutilleux’s Deux Sonnets de Jean Cassou, again with Gilbert and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France closes the album.

All singing is a kind of storytelling, and Renée Fleming, whose vast repertoire includes many works demonstrating the breadth and richness of the French tradition, is no stranger to the particular skills required of the art. “For the sheer sensual joy of singing, no language gives me more pleasure than French,” she remarks. “Not only am I drawn in by the beauty of the poetry and the evocative texture of the music, but the unaccented and legato fluidity of these phrases places my voice in its optimal resonance.

“My connection to Ravel’s Shéhérazade dates back to my early student days,” Fleming says, “specifically, a live cassette recording of Elly Ameling and the Rochester Philharmonic. This was one of the pieces that inspired me to follow the path towards classical music.” Scheherazade was the teller of the Tales of the Arabian Nights, whose prowess at inventing stories enabled her to survive a Sultan’s cruel decree for 1001 nights. Ravel’s Shéhérazade dates from his early maturity and its lush yet subtle harmony and refined orchestration are typical of the sonic magic he could create. The songs are settings of poetry by Léon Leclère (1874–1966), whose pen name, which combined the hero of one of Wagner’s operas with the villain of another, was Tristan Klingsor.


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