Soprano Renee Fleming’s latest album, Distant Light, was released last Friday on the Decca Classics label. Recorded with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra in the acoustically opulent Konserthuset, Distant Light features a hauntingly atmospheric assortment of twentieth century Scandinavian music. The exception is the opening track: Samuel Barber’s dreamy, nostalgic Knoxville: Summer of 1915, written in 1947. (If you find yourself longing for the warmth of summer, the sultry Tennessee night air experienced in Barber’s front porch rocking chair might tide you over).
Swedish composer Anders Hillborg (b. 1954) wrote The Strand Settings, a 24-minute-long song cycle set to the poetry of former U.S. Poet Laureate Mark Strand, with Renee Fleming’s voice in mind. The second song, Dark Harbor XX, unfolds in both deep and shimmering waves of sound:
Surprisingly, Renee Fleming rounds out the album with four Björk songs: Virus from the 2011 album, Biophilia, Joga and All is Full of Love from the 1997 album, Homogenic, and Undo from the 2001 album, Vespertine. It’s impressive to hear how adeptly Fleming changes the tone color of her voice and the style of her singing to fit Björk’s music. It’s also interesting to hear the similarities between Björk’s ambient soundscapes and the music of Hillborg.
Here is the original version of Undo, performed by Björk:
And here is Renee Fleming’s cover version. The electronic and studio aspects are central to the original song. Here, in this new orchestral setting, it becomes something different:
2 thoughts on “New Release: Renee Fleming’s “Distant Light” Blends Barber and Björk”
Since the first time I heard of Renee Fleming – growing up in San Diego, Ca, she was often a principle in some of her star roles…Faust, Eugene Onegin, Rusalka, etc. I own every solo recording she has made, happily. As a fan, hers is a tremendously beautiful and expressive voice that touch my ear and my heart. As a singer myself, I believe she is the epitome of REAL and strong technique. Which is what has kept her voice going so wonderfully in this nearing 30yr career. She gives me something to aspire to both career wise, technically and artistically. This album contains the Barber, which I have heard her sing before, but have wanted a lasting recording for a long time. Here she does it sumptuously. I was surprised by the Bjork and as Renee has said in interview, they do lend very well to the classical soprano and the arrangements are perfect. I heard the other songs at Carnegie. Astonishing. I’m very happy to own this CD and hope it goes to the Grammys and is a winner! Thanks for the great article! I’m following you on social media immediately! All best –
Thank you for your thoughtful comment, DeAndre. I’m so glad you found The Listeners’ Club!