. . . "Distant Light" juxtaposes a luminous new song-cycle by the Swedish composer Anders Hillborg with Barber's evocative "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" and orchestrations of three songs by the idiosyncratic Icelandic diva Björk, and has completely bewitched the Presto office . . .
Radiant Renée triumphs in both Barber and Björk . . . Fleming shows with this ambitious album that she is far from renouncing musical frolics . . . there's quintessential Fleming repertoire on it -- a gorgeous performance of Samuel Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" . . . What's most important is that Fleming, 58 next month, still commands the creamiest, spine-shiveringly sensuous timbre in the business. That's evident throughout Knoxville, as is her excellent diction . . . There's a much more ghostly atmosphere in Hillborg's writing, though, with especially effective use of shimmering string clusters. And he also supplies a vocal line tailor made for Fleming, with opportunities galore for her to soar above the stave like some majestic ocean liner riding the gentle swell supplied by the Royal Stockholm Orchestra . . . The amazing thing about the three Björk covers she includes here -- "Virus", "Joga" and "All is Full of Love" . . . is that this originality of melodic line and harmony is preserved, while the idiom is gracefully transformed into that of the romantically orchestrated art-song . . . I was transfixed by the lushness and emotional richness.
In his song-cycle "The Strand Settings", Anders Hillborg shows how well music can enter this dream-like world where emotions and nature intertwine. At once alluring and uneasy, the songs are a gift for Renée Fleming, whose siren-like soprano draws the listener on to the unknown. The atmosphere is potently captured by Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra.
. . . as a vehicle for the soaring purity of Fleming's voice, and as an evocation of Strand's very finely etched sensibility, Hillborg's settings are genuinely beautiful and their cumulative effect is powerful . . . There's more ravishment and vocal refinement in the work that precedes the Hillborg too . . . ["Knoxville: Summer of 1915"] is one of the most transcendentally beautiful of all 20th-century vocal works, and tailor-made for a voice of Fleming's radiant purity. She sings it with just the right mix of fond nostalgia and uncomplicated descriptive directness, while Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic provide discreetly evocative accompaniment . . . [the orchestral arrangements by Hans Ek of Björk's] "Virus", "Jog" and "All Is Full of Love" are immensely skilled, and the last of them, in which Fleming duets with herself, is not a million miles away from the soundworld of Hillborg's cycle.
Fleming's lustrous voice illuminates the gorgeous textures and yearning for the past of Barber's "Knoxville: Summer of 1915", and conductor Sakari Oramo and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra come to the forefront with the brittle sounds of Hillborg's haunting "The Strand Settings".
"The Strand Settings" komponierte der Schwede Anders Hillborg Renée Fleming auf ihren leuchtenden Sopran: Unter die ausdrucksstarke Deklamation legt er zumeist Klangflächen von berückender Schönheit, aus denen sich bisweilen einzelne Phrasen herausheben wie Seezeichen aus einem Meer des Klanges. Renée Fleming war selten besser als in den Stücken dieser CD. Das Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra begleitet sie unter Sakari Oramo, der eine überzeugende Relation herstellt zwischen dem Gesangsstar und dem symphonischen Anspruch der Werke.