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Title - 'Berg: Lyric Suite; Wellesz: Sonnets'
Artist - Emerson String Quartet with Renée Fleming

For those not in the classical know, the uber talented Renée Fleming is an American opera singer and soprano whose repertoire encompasses Richard Strauss, Mozart, Handel, bel canto, lieder, French opera and chansons, jazz and indie rock.

Fleming has a full lyric soprano voice and has performed coloratura, lyric, and lighter spinto soprano operatic roles in Italian, German, French, Czech, and Russian, aside from her native English. She also speaks fluent German and French, along with limited Italian.

Her signature roles include Countess Almaviva in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, the title role in Dvořák's Rusalka, the title role in Massenet's Manon, the title role in Massenet's Thaïs, the title role in Richard Strauss's Arabella, the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, and the Countess in Capriccio.

This delightful, vibrant new release actually reunites on record for the first time Americas reigning star soprano Renée Fleming and its premier string quartet, The Emersons, to take us on a journey into the twilight world of Vienna in the 1920s and 30s; in music imbued with late romanticism and burgeoning modernism.

Berg's Lyric Suite is a work of intricate, complexity believed to have a secret dedication and to outline a secret programme relating to Bergs affair with Franz Werfels sister (Werfel was married to Mahler s widow, Alma). Theodor Adorno called the work a latent opera and in its sixth and final movement, the Largo desolato, Berg introduces the soprano voice and quotes Wagners Tristan motif to evoke his doomed, impossible love.

This was still secessionist Vienna: a world of paintings by Klimt, psychoanalysis by Freud and a musical life where you could hear Bruno Walter conduct Mahler and Clemens Krauss lead the operas of Richard Strauss.

Egon Welleszs highly expressive setting of Sonnets by Elizabeth Barrett-Browning was one of the last works he completed before leaving Austria ahead of the Anschluss in 1938. It is heard here in its original version for soprano and string quartet. Barrett-Browning was one of the most popular English poets of the Victoria era, although Wellesz turned to German translations by Rainer Maria Rilke for his setting.

In closing, and in truth, it was a great idea to put the two versions of the last movement, with and without voice, here on this one CD. Indeed, this CD is really indispensable for a masterpiece of Egon Wellesz, one composer unjustly unknown. Renée Fleming, as you would imagine, is amazing throughout.