Brahms, Wagner, Mahler: Songs of Love and Sorrow, S. Blythe, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, J. Nelson (re-released, 2011)
In her program note, Blythe explained that the kernel of the recital was in the opening work, a set of songs by James Legg (1962-2000) on the wry, sometimes bleak poetry of Emily Dickinson. Legg, who composed these songs with Blythe's voice in mind, set the texts thoughtfully and with an ear to the poetry -- which Blythe and her able accompanist, Warren Jones, put front and center by reciting the poems before they performed the songs and not including the texts in the program. The musical idiom was tonal, jazzy, and a little saccharine, and one had the sense that if it were not Blythe at the helm the result would have been a lot more boring. In the final song, 'Tis not that dying hurts us so, you could hear Legg searching for something profound to bring the set to a satisfying end, but he did not find it. This point was brought home even more by the Samuel Barber set of James Joyce songs, op. 10, that followed it. Barber, a far superior composer, accomplished much more in just three songs of much greater variety, with especially the booming, martial final piece, I Hear an Army, cutting through the sugary aftertaste of everything that had come before it.
Robert Battey, Mezzo Stephanie Blythe sang big in a small hall (Washington Post, September 17)
Joshua Kosman, Stephanie Blythe: poetry and pizzazz (San Francisco Chronicle, October 15, 2011)
Georgia Rowe, Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Blythe: One in a Million (San Francisco Classical Voice, October 13, 2011)