Review: Soprano tells tales of love at Shadyside Presbyterian Church

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .


Post-Gazette editor and classical music lover Lillian Thomas attended the second concert of Shadyside Presbyterian Church's Music for Midsummer Nights series and has graciously written up an terrific review of the performance.

If you haven't been able to try out this new series, be sure to catch one of the final two concerts in the coming weeks. 

Now, from Lillian:

Kathy Linger proved to be an engaging guide for a musical tour through the vicissitudes of love Wednesday evening.

The clear-voiced lyric coloratura soprano – along with pianist Ellen Fast, clarinetist Ron Samuels and violinist Charlie Loh – filled the sanctuary of Shadyside Presbyterian with musical expressions of love that ranged from the silly to the sublime in the second installment of "Music for Midsummer Nights," a series of four midweek concerts. Ms. Linger has sung with many of Pittsburgh's early music ensembles but performs a great deal of 20th-century repertoire as well, having appeared in a variety of productions in Spoleto, Italy. She created the atmosphere of a living room concert, chatting with the audience between song groupings and looking directly into the eyes of her listeners as she sang. The song groupings moved from themes of emerging love to more melancholy meditations on longing and loss, ending with the highlight of the evening, Schubert's "The Shepherd on the Rock."

"Cupid, the Slyest Rogue Alive," Purcell's song of the winged love archer's reaction to a bee sting, fell into the silly category. Ms. Linger's singing of this and two other Purcell songs was clean and well-phrased.

The ornamentation in Handel's "Tornami a vagheggiar" gave her a little trouble, but she seemed to hit her stride in a motley selection of mostly 20th-century songs about the impact of love in full flower. Ms. Linger's coach at the University of Illinois, Eric Dallheim, introduced some of these pieces to her as vocal exercises, but they have remained meaningful to her, she told the audience.

The last in the group was Richard Robert Rossi's "A Red, Red Rose," a piece for soprano, piano and violin set to a Robert Burns poem. Twelve-year-old Charlie Loh, a CAPA student who studies with Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra assistant concertmaster Hong-Guang Jia, took his place behind the piano and produced an even tone that strengthened as the piece progressed, ably matching and echoing Ms. Linger as she sang of enduring love: "And I will luve thee still, my Dear, Till a' the seas gang dry."

Ms. Linger then moved from those brighter songs to a grouping that evoked the sorrow of missing or lost love. She handled the complex, difficult selections from Richard Strauss's "Brentano Lieder" with assurance and phrasing that brought out the pathos of the songs.

Pianist Ellen Fast, who both sings with and serves as a rehearsal accompanist for the Mendelssohn Choir, was an expressive and skilled partner. In Poulenc's "Fleurs," she built tension and drama through the slow-stepping chords of her part.

Ms. Linger concluded with "The Shepherd on the Rock," Schubert's complex, shape-shifting Lied for soprano, piano and clarinet written at the end of his life for Pauline Anna Milder-Hauptmann, a singer and friend of the composer. Samuels, the PSO's second clarinetist, brought an exceptionally warm tone and thoughtful phrasing, paired with a seemingly effortless ability to leap between notes and styles. He and Ms. Linger echoed, countered and melded musical phrases throughout the song's many rhythmic, tempo and mood changes.


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