December 26, 2006


A Chameleon Shows Her Colors (FRED KIRSHNIT, December 26, 2006, NY Sun)

Renée Fleming has nothing left to prove at the opera house, and so it was heartening to observe her self-confidence and listen to an entire Thursday evening at Carnegie Hall without one single aria on the printed program. The concert, titled Rejoice Greatly, contained nods to the world of classical music but was primarily a Christmas compendium of favorite songs in varying styles. Ms. Fleming proved that she was a master of each and every one of them.

The more elevated repertoire ranged from the Baroque to the modern and demonstrated Ms. Fleming's chameleon sense of subtle coloration. She is absolutely the best at interpreting the music of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — anyone who has ever heard her Seven Early Songs of Alban Berg will testify to this — and so was superbly warm in the Maria Wiegenlied of Max Reger, with its reference to the main theme of the second of the Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano of Johannes Brahms. Also deeply satisfying was the velvety vibrato of Dank sei dir, Herr, a piece by fin de siècle composer Siegfried Ochs purportedly based on a Handelian air.

Handel was, of course, on the program and Ms. Fleming's "Rejoice Greatly" was notable for its steely ornamentation, perfectly on pitch melisma. But personally, I was more moved by her larger-than-life intonation of Leonard Bernstein's "A Simple Song," whose title belies its complexities.

You could hardly turn on PBS this weekend without seeing Ms Fleming in one of several fine Christmas concerts, a pleasant change from their seemingly endless baby boomer fare.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2006 10:09 AM

You'd only have live in ultra-blue Sacramento, CA PBS KVIE to know you'd never get to see anything like Rene celebrating Christmas!
Owning her "Beautiful Voice" CD I am very aware of what my affiliate has denied me.
See also your email regarding, the unbroadcast here, Mormon Tabernachle Choir special.

Posted by: Mike Daley at December 26, 2006 11:06 PM