Distant Light - Renée Fleming

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About this CD


Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra

Oramo, Sakari

Fleming, Renée


Release Date:
6th January 2017

Catalogue Number:

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Distant Light – Renée Fleming


The idea of the singer as a generative force is one of the concepts that unites the works on this album. Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 was commissioned by the legendary American soprano Eleanor Steber; Fleming herself was instrumental in getting Swedish composer Anders Hillborg to create his substantial new work The Strand Settings for voice and orchestra, and helped identify suitable texts; and Fleming has a high regard for that most original of artists, Icelandic singer-songwriter Björk.

For the text of Knoxville, Barber chose a prose poem by the American poet James Agee evoking a summer evening in Tennessee as seen through the eyes of an innocent child just beginning to develop an awareness of mortality. The music vividly conveys the changing atmosphere as the evening deepens into night, and Fleming delivers a voluptuous performance that embraces the more ‘folksy’ side and the deeper messages of the text.

Hillborg’s setting of five poems by the Canadian-born American poet Mark Strand is a perfect partner to Barber’s work. Initially it inhabits the same kind of orchestral sound-world, and the subject of the first poem Black Sea shares much with Agee’s Knoxville text. A quiet, slow moving chordal texture underpins the voice, segueing into the next setting and developing as the emotional heat of the text increases, with some truly spine-tingling moments when Fleming is at full throttle. Most astonishing is the third setting, Dark Harbor XXXV, where sweeping cosmic drifts of music alternate with intensely rhythmic and forceful passages. Here Fleming sings with the most extraordinarily dramatic virtuosity, before the music returns to a calmer mode for the final setting. The whole lasts just over twenty minutes, and the effect is absorbing, unsettling and hugely moving.

As for the three songs by Bjork, well – I’m not convinced this is the right place for them, although I can understand why Fleming wanted to include them. But whatever your views on this, I must say that the disc is worth buying for the Hillborg work alone. All texts are printed in the booklet.

Reviewed by: Anne McAlister

Media / Summary

Label's Recording Summary:

This CD is scheduled for release on 6th January. Any orders placed will be shipped out on this date.

‘Distant Light’ is Renée Fleming’s first foray into the hypnotic world of Scandinavian music. For her first new studio album in three years she has chosen to inspire and provoke with a daring mix of music.

The title comes from a poem in a new song cycle dedicated to Renée and here receiving its world premiere recording: Anders Hillborg’s ‘The Strand Settings’.

“At once atmospheric, elegiac and unsettling, the work was crafted with Ms. Fleming’s creamy voice in mind”, wrote the New York Times at its first performance in 2013. One of Sweden’s brightest star composers Hillborg has a close relationship with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic where this recording was made in February 2016 with its principal conductor Sakari Oramo.

Renée couples this with three songs by Björk in specially commissioned orchestrations by the brilliant Swedish composer and arranger Hans Ek, recorded here for the first time.

Why Björk? Both she and Renée are recipients of Sweden’s Polar Music Prize. Both dare to be original. In the fascinating booklet interview Renée talks about her admiration for Björk: “Her originality is breathtaking. She just blazes her own path forward”. Renée chooses the songs which mean the most to her personally and musically.

Works Featured:
Disc Name:
: Barber: Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Op. 24 :
: Hillborg: The Strand Settings (world premiere recording) :
: Björk - Virus (arr. Hans Ek) :
: Björk - Joga (arr. Hans Ek) :
: Björk - All is Full of Love (arr. Hans Ek) :

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