Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stephanie Blythe & Les Violons du Roy

Sunday afternoon, I heard mezzo Stephanie Blythe sing Haydn & Handel with Les Violons du Roy, a Canadian chamber orchestra led by Bernard Labadie. Instrumental suites by Telemann & Bach began each half of the program. Members of Les Violons du Roy play modern instruments, but their approach is influenced by period performance practices. Tempos were fast & snappy, with punchy accents. The strings use almost no vibrato, & the sound is bright. The group's 3 oboes sat front and center, between the 1st & 2nd violins. I liked the oboes' very tight ensemble in a rapid passage in the Espagniol movement of the Telemann suite. We heard Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 4 in the "original version" that had no trumpets or timpani. The string players used baroque bows for the orchestral suites but switched to modern bows when accompanying Ms. Blythe.

Cal Performances photo IMG_20131020_145515_zps4fa2531e.jpgIt was a thrill to hear Stephanie Blythe's powerful voice. It's like a tree trunk, & I felt it in my chest as well as heard it. Her voice easily filled the recital-sized Hertz Hall, but there were a few moments when she got really loud, & then you realized just how much she actually scaled back her sound. Before intermission, she sang Haydn's recitative-heavy cantata Arianna a Naxos, communicating nobility & anger. The concert closed with 3 arias from Handel's Giulio Cesare. In the flashy "Empio, dirò, tu sei" Ms. Blythe had to take a breath during the rapid 16th note runs, but all the notes were clear. She was appropriately sneering in "L'empio, sleale, indegno," & the orchestra accompanied her with biting chords. Her sustained notes in "Aure, deh, per pietà" were wonderfully plush & thick. The audience was impressively quiet & did not applaud between the Handel arias. They even held the silence at the end of the last aria before giving Ms. Blythe a standing ovation. Her encore of "Che farò senza Euridice?" was nicely even.

§ Les Violons du Roy
Bernard Labadie, music director
with Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano

TELEMANN: Orchestral Suite in C major, TWV 55:C6 (Ouverture à 7)

HAYDN: Arianna a Naxos, Hob. XXVlb:2 (1789)
(anonymous arrangement for string orchestra)

BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069
(original version) (1718)

HANDEL: Selections from Giulio Cesare, HWV 17
Empio, dirò, tu sei
L'empio, sleale, indegno
Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà

Encore:
GLUCK: Che farò senza Euridice? (from Orfeo ed Euridice)

Cal Performances
Sunday, October 20, 2013, 3pm

Hertz Hall

2 comments:

Michael Strickland said...

By your standards, this is an insane rave. Glad to hear La Diva Blythe continues to astound.

Axel Feldheim said...

I have no idea what you mean, but I certainly enjoyed hearing her terrific voice in a relatively small hall. Actually, I got to hear her later that day in an even smaller space...