Though the title of this newest release from the prodigious output of Renee Fleming may suggest a recording of hymns and down-home revival songs, nothing could be further from the truth. This collection of sixteen works is gleaned from sacred music through the centuries and gives Fleming the opportunity to include in her recorded repertoire works she might otherwise not have had the opportunity to sing. While those who appreciate her gifts as a musician will treasure this very straightforward approach to some beautiful excerpts, there will be the usual detractors who find Fleming's glamour on the stage non-transferable to the CD. And it would be a shame to pass this recital by on that premise.
Fleming is in fine voice, free of mannerisms, and elegant in phrasing in a wide range of works by Handel ('Rejoice greatly', 'He shall feed his flock'), Bach ('Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben'), both Gounod's and Schubert's 'Ave Maria', Mozart ('Laudate dominum' from the Solemn Vespers and 'Laudamus te' from the Great Mass), Bernstein's Mass ('A Simple Song'), Fauré ('Pie Jesu'), Poulenc ('Domine Deus' from the Gloria), Franck ('Panis Angelicus'), and other composers. She even includes the 'Evening Prayer' from Humperdinck's 'Hänsel und Gretel' with exquisite surprise gift of support from Susan Graham.
The recital is conducted by Andreas Delfs with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Far from being a crossover ploy this album is a collection of beautiful music beautifully sung. Grady Harp, September 05