This disc, which is Stephanie Blythe's first recital
recording, attempts to show a variety of tones and emotions, and the
full range of her voice.
Blythe has a sweet voice, very attractive, yet sometimes
a bit too forceful. However, she commits far too much vibrato, especially
in passages where it really detracts from the music and from her voice.
Rather than use vibrato as an effect on longer notes here almost every
note is quivering making the shorter notes difficult to hear correctly.
This works better in a forceful aria, such as Handel's Awake, Saturnia…
Iris, hence away, from Giulio Cesare.
This is not merely an issue of historically informed
performances (HIP) as opposed to more "modern" performance;
it is also a matter of personal taste. I cannot listen to someone whose
voice sounds like it has St. Vitus' Dance, especially when it detracts
from the melodies they are singing. Others may, indeed, feel differently,
or may not be sensitive to this issue at all. For an article on vibrato
in baroque vocal music, see: http://ladyviola1593.tripod.com/musichistory/
Blythe's voice can also be more silky and mellifluous,
at times, such as in Bach's Agnus Dei, from the B Minor Mass,
but most of the arias chosen highlight the strength of her voice, as
opposed to its fluidity. Short, choppy notes, such as Handel's Al
lampo dell'armi, from Cesare, show more her ability to jump around,
rather than any true tone.
Blythe's rendition of Erbarme dich, mein Gott
from the St. Matthew Passion is quite nice, yet she seems to lack the
conviction and spirit necessary to make this aria come true. Here, as
in the other pieces, she tends to overuse vibrato and to be too forceful;
this song should be sung as a long sigh, but she tries to impose her
The selection is not surprising. These are the same
arias that are often heard on such recordings. Stephanie Blythe certainly
has a nice voice, yet it may not be appropriate for this repertoire.
She comes through better in the Handel, which, as operas, call for a
more imposing voice than Bach's sacred music. This is a recording of
baroque music for people who are not really fans of baroque music.