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|1. Serse: Recitativo: Frondi Tenere|
|2. Serse: Aria: Ombra Mai Fu|
|3. Hercules: Recitative And Aria: Where Shall I Fly?|
|4. Semele: Recitative: Awake, Saturnia|
|5. Semele: Aria: Iris, Hence Away|
|6. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Aria: Al Lampo Dell'armi|
|7. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Recitativo Ed Aria: Dall'ondoso Periglio... Aure, Deh, Per Pieta|
|8. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Aria: Priva Son D'ogni Conforto|
|9. Giulio Cesare In Egitto: Recitativo E Duetto: Madre!... Son Nata A Lagrimar - Stephanie Blythe/David Daniels/Martin Isepp|
|10. Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: Aria: Erbarme Dich, Mein Gott|
|11. Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: Aria: Konnen Tranen Meiner Wangen|
|12. Saint John Passion, BWV 245: Aria: Von Den Stricken Meiner Sunden|
|13. Saint John Passion, BWV 245: Aria: Es Ist Vollbracht! - Stephanie Blythe/Emmanuelle Haim/Jerome Hantai|
|14. Mass in b, BWV 232: Agnus Dei|
This is a lovely recording. Stephanie Blythe's voice must be one of the most beautiful to be heard today: smooth as silk, warm as velvet, pure, dark, almost masculine at times, even in quality across a big range down to F-sharp. She can spin out endless phrases without strain. Her intonation is impeccable, her expressiveness heartfelt, simple, and direct. The program is a string of priceless jewels, opening with the famous "Ombra mai fu" from "Serse" (better known as Handel's Largo) and closing with the Agnus Dei from Bach's B minor Mass. However, with the exception of Juno's furious outburst of jealousy from Handel's Semele, the dramatic "Where shall I fly?" from his Hercules, and one fast, light aria from Giulio Cesare, everything is slow and primarily mournful. This seems to be in the nature of the contralto repertoire, but it does generate a certain sameness despite all attempts to create variety.
One of the highlights is the heartrending mother-son duet between Cornelia and Sesto from Giulio Cesare with the splendid countertenor David Daniels, but Blythe includes both Cornelia's and Cesare's arias, fulfilling a wish no doubt cherished by many great contraltos, but impossible to realize on stage. She seems more at home in Handel's worldly arias than in Bach's sacred ones, some of which--notably the "Erbarme dich" from the St. Matthew Passion--sound a little too operatic. The violinist who plays the wonderful obbligato here is not named (and often inaudible); the fine wind soloists in the St. John Passion are also unidentified. The orchestra is good but rather stiff, the rhythm pedantic, the style, with normal tuning, semi-baroque. This is underscored by the truly baroque gamba solo in St. John. However, the beauty of the singing triumphs over all misgivings. --Edith Eisler
Top Customer Reviews
Opening this recital (accompanied by John Nelson conducting the Ensemble Orchestral de Paris) she wisely selects the well-known 'Ombra mai fu' and allows first time listeners to bask in the beauty of tone and perfection of execution she brings to every subsequent work on this CD. Unlike other singers who attempt this repertoire Blythe shows no audible break in register as she soars into the passionate stratosphere of 'Where shall I fly' from Handel's "Semele" or plumbs the depths of Bach's touching arias from both the St Matthew and St John Passions.
As far as the perfect display of all her gifts in one piece then her duet with countertenor David Daniels in the 'Madre..Son nata a lagrimar' from Handel's "Guilio Cesare" is that pinnacle. This duet has to be one of the most beautiful baroque experiences ever captured on disc. A singer to watch and collect!
Nearly everybody who has reviewed Blythe has stated that she is the heir to the throne of Marilyn Horne, and I agree. In fact, she is one of Horne's 'babies', who did some of her earliest work as a recitalist for the Marilyn Horne Foundation, and she often sounds uncannily like her. Blythe has not only Horne's power, richness, and huge lower register, but also a gentleness and vulnerability that one almost never hears from Horne. Her voice is warm and womanly, and, surprisingly for a contralto, young-sounding. She is equally adept at machine-gun coloratura and silken legato. She has beautiful control of dynamics, especially messa di voce.Read more ›
When I was told it was Stephanie Blythe, a contralto, I was more than a bit surprised, something more like shocked. The only other contralto I'd heard performing Handel works was Ewa Podles. I was in a record store in Quebec at the time, and when I heard Ewa's version of "Cara sposa" from Handel's Rinaldo I was a little put off. Her voice seemed to be lacking the delicacy of the countertenor tone, although she did perform with great passion and gusto. It was a much more fiery voice, earthy and heroic, perfect for a character such as Rinaldo. Blthye's voice, in contrast, performed the song "Ombra mai fu" as a more pastoral song, much more gently and passively.
I was tempted to buy the CD, but the song that *made* me do it was my favourite Baroque religious song "Erbarme Dich" by Bach. I own two other versions of that as well (Scholl and Taylor) and I thought that I'd never hear anyone sing it more beautifully. But Stephanie's voice is something so like a countertenor's: velvety smooth, dark, mysterious, melancholy, and pure. My quest for the perfect voice extended to countertenors only--until Stephanie Blythe. There is something so magical in that voice type that I am powerless in its wake.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Blythe has an excellent voice. She isn't Marilyn Horne or Ann Murray or Sarah Walker, but she's first class nonetheless, and this album is certainly worth having. Read morePublished on Sept. 3 2003
It is too soon to make a solid declaration of the future of this young singer, or (perhaps inevitable) comparisons to precedent mezzos of this repertoire. Read morePublished on Nov. 22 2001
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