BBC Proms: Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

"Marin Alsop’s Brahms concert with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment here formed the Proms debut of the American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, winner of Cardiff Singer of the World in 2013. Her Brahms singing on that occasion marked her out as an important interpreter of his music, an impression confirmed by her Proms performance of the Alto Rhapsody, one of his greatest works, though the unusual forces required – a male chorus in addition to alto and orchestra – have made it something of a rarity. Setting a text by Goethe, the rhapsody examines the nature of existential isolation and the potential of music to offer solace. Where some interpreters ramp up the angst, Barton was notably restrained: the only moment of overt passion came, tellingly, in the heft with which she uttered the statement that “human hatred” has forced Brahms’s traveller from his path. Elsewhere, the noble beauty of the sound was breathtaking."
–Tim Ashley, The Guardian

"Why give opulent American mezzo and only possible winner of the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition Jamie Barton less than a quarter of an hour to shine in a masterpiece? Shine she did, with...a great voice – and Barton’s unquestionably is – with personality and feeling to match."
–David Nice, The Arts Desk

"Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton, making her Proms debut, joined the orchestra and the male voices of the Choir of the Enlightenment for the Alto Rhapsody. Barton had an authoritative presence on stage, and drew us in with her rich low notes and touching communication of Goethe’s anguished words of despair. This was a moving performance which proved to be the evening's highlight. Jamie Barton emerged as the star of the evening."
–Nick Boston, Bachtrack

"It is a pity that these days the term ‘mezzo-soprano’ covers all lower-voice female soloists, because this is absolutely a piece for an old-fashioned contralto, and it was performed majestically as just that. Barton produces some beautifully sweet top notes, but her lower register is magnificent – the bottom A-flat was especially sonorous."
–Barry Creasy, MusicOMH

"Vocal finesse shone from the Alto Rhapsody too, thanks to the wonderful American mezzo Jamie Barton. That joyfully dark, voluptuous and steady voice sucked us in from the first worried note to the last breath of emollient calm."
–Geoff Brown, The London Times

Beth Stewart