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Handel, Bach: Arias / Stephanie Blythe, John Nelson, Et Al


Release Date: 11/06/2001 
Label:  Virgin Classics   Catalog #: 45475   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  George Frideric HandelJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Stephanie BlytheDavid DanielsMartin IseppJérôme Hantaď
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 12 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

How do you characterize a voice like this? The "official" description is "contralto", but no way is Richard Tucker Award-winner Stephanie Blythe a contralto in any conventional sense. This is a voice so versatile that in her opening "Ombra mai fu" (and in many other places) you'd swear that you were listening to one of today's new breed of countertenors--specifically David Daniels, who coincidentally records for the same label and appears on this program in a duet from Handel's Giulio Cesare. (In fact, their voices are so perfectly matched that when they sing together it's nearly impossible to tell them apart.) As with Daniels, her quality blends the best of male and female characteristics into one gorgeous Read more sound: richly hued, facile of technique, exceptionally wide of range, and with a tone remarkably free of edges--and unlike any of today's Baroque vocal specialists, a formidable lower register of astonishing power that can be both warmly seductive and frightening. Really. You've never heard "Iris, hence away!" from Handel's Semele performed with such compelling insistence, nor Caesar's "Al lampo dell'armi" sung with anything like the convincing warlike rage Blythe exhibits here. This is impressive singing on any scale of measurement--and Blythe tempers her strength with tenderness in such moments as the extended aria "Priva son d'ogni conforto", again from Giulio Cesare.


Blythe benefits from a conductor and orchestral partners who truly support her with admirable sensitivity, including appropriately measured dynamics and delicately articulated accents and ornaments. The second half of the disc features Blythe in arias from Bach's Passions, including a fervent "Erbarme dich" and darkly shaded, smooth-as-silk "Können Tränen meiner Wangen" from the St. Matthew and similarly heartfelt and technically unassailable renditions of "Von den Stricken meiner Sünden" and "Es ist vollbracht!" from the St. John. Mind you, except for the latter, which also is distinguished by a lovely gamba solo, these are not the best versions of these arias on disc--John Nelson's direction is just too square and mannered--but you can't beat Blythe's performances for sheer beauty and emotional involvement. If she does falter it's in those athletic, quick-tempo Handelian runs where she lacks the absolute pin-point accuracy of Daniels and another world-class countertenor, Andreas Scholl in this same repertoire. The sound is ideal--everything's in balance, and that glorious voice is right where you want it, front and center, complemented by an agreeable acoustic. Vocal music fans: don't miss this. Blythe is one of the more exciting singers to come along in years--and her star is only beginning to rise.
--David Vernier, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Serse, HWV 40: Ombra mai fu "Largo" by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1738; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 3 Minutes 43 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "Frondi tenere..." 
2.
Hercules, HWV 60: Where shall I fly? by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 6 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Language: English 
3.
Semele, HWV 58: Hence, Iris, hence away by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1744; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 4 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Language: English 
Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "Awake, Saturnia..." 
4.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Al lampo dell' armi by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 3 Minutes 29 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
5.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Aure, deh, per pietŕ by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1724; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 8 Minutes 33 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "Dall' ondoso periglio..." 
6.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Priva son d'ogni conforto by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 5 Minutes 56 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
7.
Giulio Cesare, HWV 17: Son nata a lagrimar by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano), David Daniels (Countertenor), Martin Isepp (Harpsichord)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; London, England 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 8 Minutes 21 Secs. 
Language: Italian 
Notes: This selection begins with the recitative "Madre!..." 
8.
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: no 47, Erbarme dich by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 6 Minutes 20 Secs. 
Language: German 
9.
Saint John Passion, BWV 245: no 11, Von den Stricken meiner Sünden by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 5 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: German 
10.
Saint John Passion, BWV 245: no 58, Es ist vollbracht by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano), Jérôme Hantaď (Bass Viola da gamba)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1724; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 5 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Language: German 
11.
Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244: no 61, Können Thränen meiner Wangen by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: ?1727; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 7 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Language: German 
12.
Mass in B minor, BWV 232: Agnus Dei by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Stephanie Blythe (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  John Nelson
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Paris Orchestral Ensemble
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1747-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Date of Recording: 12/2000 
Venue:  Notre-Dame du Liban Church, Paris 
Length: 5 Minutes 19 Secs. 
Language: Latin 

Sound Samples

Serse: Recitativo: Fronde tenere
Serse: Aria: Ombra mai fu
Hercules: Recitative & Aria: Where shall I fly?
Semele: Recitative: Awake, Saturnia
Semele: Aria: Iris, Hence away
Aria: Al lampo dell'armi (from Giulio Cesare HWV17)
Recitativo ed aria: Dall' ondoso periglio ... Aure, deh per pietŕ (from Giulio Cesare HWV17)
Aria: Priva son d'ogni conforto (from Giulio Cesare HWV17)
Recitativo e duetto: Madre ... Son nata a lagrimar from Giulio Cesare HWV17)
Aria: Erbarme dich, sein Gott (from St Matthew Passion BWV244)
Aria: Können Tränen meiner Wangen nichts erlangen (from St Matthew Passion BWV244)
Aria: Von den Stricken meiner Sünden (from St John Passion BWV245)
Aria: Es ist vollbracht ... Der Held aus Juda (from St John Passion BWV245)
Mass in B minor BWV232: Agnus Dei

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