Excerpts from a review on Classics Today of Sasha Cooke — “If You Love for Beauty” — by David Vernier
American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke… has a voice of substance, lustrous and silver-toned, especially rich and vibrant in the lower register, with the assured technique of one who has the goods and just knows what to do with her gift….
She characterizes the mood, various colors, and moments of rising intensity, or more “dreamy” or reflective passages in the Chausson Poème particularly well, expertly abbetted on all counts by a very fine orchestra and its sensitive music director Yehuda Gilad. Cooke’s voice has the size and expressive range to sustain focus on and interest in whatever she is doing, in true collaboration with an orchestra that’s sizable and exceptionally colorful in its own right.
Throughout the Chausson, and also in the Mahler (excellent solo horn and overall string and wind balances in the opening Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft), we enjoy her expressive use of vocal color and dynamics and her deft control of phrasing. In the Rückert Lieder these features are especially evident in Liebst du um Schönheit; the quickly tripping text ofBlicke mir nicht in die Lieder is delivered with clear enunciation, its urgency and energy convincingly characterizing the text. The emotion she portrays in Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (I am lost to the world) is deeply heartfelt and moving—capped with a lovely orchestral conclusion….
You might think that a couple of Handel arias wouldn’t fit well in the company of Mahler and Chausson, but these two actually work just fine: Cooke and a smaller-sized orchestra treat them with the same attention to expressive motivation and a proper emphasis on the song, the vocal line, and the singer. Cooke’s Ombra mai fù, in which, and I mean this as a sincere compliment, her timbre is colored more like a countertenor, is a gem….
The production features very fine sound, in which orchestra and voice and solo instruments are always sensitively and naturally balanced (the lovely cello solo in La Mort de l’amour is worth noting)….