Alex Munger and Lindsay Kate Brown
We recall hearing mezzo-soprano Lindsay Kate Brown over three years ago in the very same venue--The Morgan Library-- as one of the winners of the George and Nora London Foundation Competition. It was pre-Covid and there was a full house. Yesterday Ms. Brown presented a beautifully planned recital in the same venue but the house was half empty. We realize that post-Covid, people are staying home more, so we are urging you, dear reader, to come out and support our vocal artists who work so diligently to bring artistry into our lives!
Ms. Brown entitled her program "Serenading the Hours: A Day to Night Recital" and it was evident that she put a great deal of thought into selecting a variety of composers; she sang in three languages--Russian, German, and English. Having heard an entire concert of Rachmaninoff's music last night, our ears were particularly attuned to the Russian language and we were glad that political sentiment did not punish Tchaikovsky for Putin's transgressions. Art always trumps politics in our world!
The set of Tchaikovsky songs were well chosen, beginning with the haunting and melancholy "Autumn" and ending with the familiar "None But the Lonely Heart". Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's poignant text must have appealed to the composer who certainly had a lonely heart. But it also appealed to Schubert who included "Nur ver die Sehnsucht kennt" in his Wilhelm Meister songs. But, on the other hand, it has also been set by Schumann and Beethoven. Someday we would love to hear all four settings on the same program!
Ms. Brown has an engaging onstage presence and chatted naturally with the audience, making us feel welcome. She has an ample instrument and one well suited to Wagner and Verdi but we found it most appealing in the rich lower register and especially in the pianissimo sections. At times when called upon to sing fortissimo in the upper register, we heard a sound that was harsh to our ears.
The "Day" section of the recital continued with songs in English by Jennifer Higdon who provided her own original texts; they were sung with clarity of diction. We particularly enjoyed the lyrical piano part performed by the excellent collaborative pianist Alex Munger.
The section ended with songs by Alma Mahler who was sadly stifled by her husband, the famous composer Gustav Mahler. The composer's choice of text seems to indicate a woman of great passion. Our favorite was the gentle "Bei dir ist es traut" which showed off the part of Ms. Brown's voice that fell most pleasantly on our ear. The rippling piano in "Ansturm" was a further source of delight. "Erntelied" ended with a lovely vocalise.
The "Night" half of the program began with songs by Joseph Marx, a composer whose lieder should be more frequently heard. His "Suss duftende Lindenblüthe" produced feelings of sweet nostalgia, underscored by gentle rippling in the piano. Mr. Munger also captured the rushing brook in "Erinnerung".
Ms. Brown is considerably fonder of Samuel Barber's songs than we are although "Sure on this Shining Night" has an affecting text by James Agee.
Closing the program were six songs from Alban Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder. Although Berg composed about the same time as Marx, his works are far less accessible. Even after multiple hearings we find them difficult to relate to. There is one, however, that enchants us and that is "Die Nachtigall". Theodor Storm's text is rather mystical but the melody lingers and leaves us satisfied. The nightingale sings and roses bloom. A young woman wanders deep in thought.
We don't think we have ever heard a nightingale sing, at least not the avian version, but we just did hear a human nightingale and that is enough for us.
© meche kroop