Classical

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The Independent Culture
Schubert Lieder. Renee Fleming/Christoph Eschenbach (Decca, CD only). This disc will divide loyalties and test tolerance. It's immaculately sung, in a recording ambience that brings out the warmth and beauty of the voice. The accompaniment is distinguished. And anyone who has admired Renee Fleming's artistry in the last decade (with entrancing Fiordiligis and Countesses at Glyndebourne) will want to hear it. But as a recital programme it is frankly not so interesting.

That the songs are mostly core repertory - "Die Forelle", "Die junge Nonne", "Nacht und Traume", etc, etc - ought to have prompted penetrating and distinctive readings. But they all come with a creamy sameness. All that stands out is the choice of slow speeds and an accompanying earnestness that kills the spirit of Heidenroslein stone dead. There's also the longest- held kiss I've ever encountered in "Gretchen am Spinnrade", but it feels more like a dutiful attempt on the Guinness Book of Records than something that springs naturally from the recollected passion of the moment. Fans will forgive it. I can only say I'm trying. Michael White

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