Renée Fleming
Last Four Songs
(Sony Classical)


“What a difference a dozen years can make,” said Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1996, when Renée Fleming first recorded Richard Strauss’ Last Four Songs, her soprano effused the “creamy freshness of youth.” Now, more than 10 years later, her voice matured and her lower register developed, the soprano has a galvanic command of the material. Fleming’s “tone is weightier,” and she knows these songs—as well as the Strauss arias included here—down to her bones. She therefore gives them an “emotional urgency” that’s often lacking in other interpretations. Her resplendent personality suits the “exalted heroines” of operas Ariadne auf Naxos and Die Ägyptische Helena, said Lawson Taitte in The Dallas Morning News. The German language is known to bring out this American artist’s “best dramatic instincts,” and Fleming draws extra emotion from the text, occasionally overenunciating to give it a theatrical quality. Her “openly expressive approach” can be over-the-top, said Geoff Brown in the London Times. But conductor Christian Thielemann and the Munich Philharmonic keep everything “sympathetically balanced.” Thielemann shapes phrases and shades textures to help Fleming sound perfectly “at home with the composer she loves most of all.”