Renee Fleming, Yannick Nezet-Seguin – Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene (2021)
FLAC (tracks) 24bit/96kHz | Time – 56:48 minutes | 900 MB | Genre: Classical
Studio Masters, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Decca Music Group Ltd.
On 8 October, Ren’ee Fleming will release Voice of Nature: The Anthropocene, her new album with Yannick N’ezet-S’eguin. Inspired by the solace Fleming found while hiking near her Virginia home during lockdown, the album explores the centrality of nature in Romantic-era song and highlights the peril and fragility of the natural world today.
Says Fleming, “This music begins in a time almost two centuries ago, when people had a profound connection to the beauty of nature. Now, in the Anthropocene, we see the effects of our own activity, and the fragility of our environment. Nature has been so good to us: we have not been so good to nature.”
Fleming and her collaborator, the Canadian conductor and pianist Yannick N’ezet-S’eguin, have hand-picked a selection of works in which composers and poets find human experience and love reflected in the world of nature. A celebrated performer of art song, Fleming draws on both well-loved and lesser-known classical repertoire, with music by Edvard Grieg, Franz Liszt, Gabriel Faur’e, and Reynaldo Hahn.
The album includes premieres of two new commissions from living composers. Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts sets “Evening” by the American poet Dorianne Laux, and Nico Muhly collages poetry from the 17th-century English theologian Thomas Traherne with excerpts from writings by Robinson Meyer, a journalist who covers climate change, in Endless Space. Originally premiered by Fleming at Carnegie Hall in 2017, Caroline Shaw’s Aurora Borealis, to a text by poet Mary Jo Salter, is given its world-recording premiere.
Leave the “Anthropocene” theme aside for a moment and revel in Ren’ee Fleming’s voice on this album, released in 2021 when the singer was in her early 60s. The instrument is in fine shape, and Fleming’s decision to forgo operatic performances in favor of art song is looking better and better. The top notes don’t have the force of a 30-year-old’s but have a rather eerie precision. Perhaps there’s a bit of strain in the register just below the top, but the burnished quality of her low notes is absolutely gorgeous and more than compensates. As for the music, the new term “Anthropocene” denotes the current epoch in which the effect of human activities on the climate is fundamental. Fleming mixes French and German late Romantic songs about nature with contemporary compositions on the same theme. She avoids Schubert, whose output furnishes plenty of examples, which works well, for the Romantic works, with Britten more or less of a model, are of a piece with the new compositions, and the whole thing is unusually focused. Only one of those new works, Nico Muhly’s Endless Space, addresses the Anthropocene theme directly, and it has a 17th century text, but two of the three were commissioned for this project, and the third, Caroline Shaw’s remarkable Aurora Borealis, receives its world premiere here. Fleming indicates that the album’s genesis came during the coronavirus pandemic, as she walked in the forest near her Virginia home and became aware of the power of nature to heal. She realizes her goal beautifully, not only technically but in terms of forging a program that is as strong as that of any song recital she has ever done.
1. Renee Fleming – Puts: Evening
2. Renee Fleming – No. 1, Prison
3. Renee Fleming – No. 9, Les etoile
4. Renee Fleming – No. 5, L’heure exquise
5. Renee Fleming – No. 2, En sourdine
6. Renee Fleming – Faure: R^eve d’amour, Op. 5 No. 2
7. Renee Fleming – Liszt: S’il est un charmant gazon, S. 284
8. Renee Fleming – Muhly: Endless Space
9. Renee Fleming – No. 1, Les berceaux
10. Renee Fleming – No. 1, Au bord de l’eau
11. Renee Fleming – Hahn: L’enamouree
12. Renee Fleming – Liszt: “Uber allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, S. 306
13. Renee Fleming – No. 3, Lauf der Welt
14. Renee Fleming – No. 5, Zur Rosenzeit
15. Renee Fleming – No. 6, Ein Traum
16. Renee Fleming – Shaw: Aurora Borealis