Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Brandywine Baroque Season Opens with a Virtuous Performance


By Christine Facciolo

If Brandywine Baroque’s impressive inaugural concert of the new season is any indication, we can look forward to a year of eclectic and interesting programs.

This past weekend’s series, called The Triumph of Virtue, was held Friday and Sunday, October 12 and 14 at The Barn at Flintwoods and Saturday, October 13 at The Lutheran Church of Our Savior in Rehoboth Beach. The concerts featured instrumental and vocal works by a range of composers (including several obscure ones) from England, France and Germany.



The ensemble consisted of soprano Laura Heimes, violinist Martin Davids, gambists John Mark Rosendaal and Donna Fournier, and violone player Heather Miller. Karen Flint, founder and artistic director of Brandywine Baroque, played continuo on a 1635 Ruckers harpsichord from the Flint Collection.

The afternoon opened with an excellent rendering by Davids and Rosendaal of the thematically rich and technically demanding first violin sonata by Joseph Gibbs (1698-1788). Published in 1748, the sonata is one of eight exhibiting the Italian influence of Corelli and Geminiani. Especially charming were the expressive Largo, Aria Andante and a series of Variations of real interest, excitement and beauty.

Next up was Vitali’s Partita sopra diverse sonata (c. 1680), featuring Heather Miller playing the violone. It was a rare treat to hear the virtuosic capabilities of this deep-throated instrument in this rarely heard four-movement work.

The prolific Dietrich Buxtehude was represented by two works from his set of six sonatas. The Sonata in A minor (?1694) — a true ostinato sonata — brought Davids, Fournier and Rosendaal together for a vigorous performance that demonstrated their technical mastery, playing concerted solo passages alternating with segments in which they exchanged parts.

Likewise, the Sonata in D major (?1694) featuring Miller and Rosendaal exhibited the same daringly expressive harmonies, masterful fugal technique and virtuosity in the solo movement.

The violone made yet another appearance in the Sonate a 2 in G minor (1610) by Giovanni Paolo Cima, a composer better known for his religious compositions.

The Quatrieme Sonate in E minor (1713) by Jean-Fery Rebel featured some exciting music in the best French baroque style. Davids played every line with affected commitment while his collaborators — gambists Fournier and Rosendaal and harpsichordist Flint — enriched the texture and expressiveness of the music.

The concert also introduced attendees to the secular side of English composer William Croft. Known primarily as a composer of church music, Croft also wrote a set of six sonatas for violin which do not get performed or recorded nearly enough, even though they are in fact some of the earliest examples of English sonatas for the instrument.

Davids’ account of the G minor sonata was thoroughly accomplished in terms of dramatic phrasing and rhythmic vitality. Harpsichordist Flint emerged equally strong, reveling in the sonata’s unusually elaborate bass parts and accompanying with insight and style.

Continuing this nicely varied afternoon of music were three cantatas exquisitely performed by soprano Laura Heimes: John Stanley’s Compell’d by sultry Phoebus’ Heat (1742); Rameau’s L’Impatience (c. 1715-22); and Bousset’s Le Triomphe de la vertu (1735). The ever-dependable Heimes delivered them with persuasion and commitment in a wonderful reading. As always, she was remarkably adept at the style, offering a lithe and bouncing artistry that really brought the music to life. 

Major Acquisition & Installation in Art Museum's Copeland Sculpture Garden

Artist Chakaia Booker's sculpture, One Way.
The content of this post comes from a Delaware Art Museum press release...

At the Juried Craft Exhibition Members Preview on Friday, October 19, 2018, the Delaware Art Museum will celebrate its most recent large-scale sculpture acquisition in the Copeland Sculpture Garden — Chakaia Booker's One Way (2008). Made of recycled tires and stainless steel, the work of art was recently part of Booker's solo exhibition in Chicago's Boeing Galleries at Millennium Park.

Chakaia Booker is best known for her sculptures made of discarded materials which are most often recycled tires.  Her work explores race, globalization, feminism, and ecology. Booker received a bachelor's degree in sociology from Rutgers University, her master of fine arts degree from City College of New York, and has been included in countless group exhibitions beginning with the Whitney Biennial in 2000.

Her work is in the public collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Storm King Art Center, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2012, the National Museum of Women in the Arts installed four of her large-scale sculptures along New York Avenue adjacent to the museum, and in 2014, Towson University presented a survey of recent sculpture. That solo exhibition travelled to the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University in 2015. A large-scale wall sculpture by the artist is also featured in the Heritage Hall of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture.

The Delaware Art Museum is committed to acquiring works of art by women and historically underrepresented minorities. Chakaia Booker is the first African-American artist to be represented in the Museum's Copeland Sculpture Garden.

The artist explains that One Way conveys her concerns about diversity, mobility, and hope. The sculpture's interconnecting circles are meant to resemble movement and perceptual cycles. This significant addition further supports the Museum's ability to showcase the diversity in process, materials, and interests occupying contemporary art today.


Chakaia Booker installs her work at the Delaware Art Museum.
About Chakaia Booker
Chakaia Booker received a bachelor's degree in sociology from Rutgers University, her master of fine arts degree from City College of New York, and has been included in countless group exhibitions beginning with the Whitney Biennial in 2000. In 2012, the National Museum of Women in the Arts installed four of her large-scale sculptures along New York Avenue adjacent to the museum, and in 2014, Towson University presented a survey of recent sculpture. That solo exhibition travelled to the Leonard Pearlstein Gallery at Drexel University in 2015.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Mélomanie Opens Season with New Venue, New Music

By Christine Facciolo

Mélomanie welcomed a new season on Sunday, October 7, with a new venue, a new cellist and a couple of eclectic works new to Delaware audiences.

The award-winning ensemble, known for its provocative pairings of early and contemporary works, has established a relationship with the Delaware Historical Society, which will host its Wilmington performances at Old Town Hall adjacent to the organization’s museum on North Market Street in downtown Wilmington.

Mélomanie also welcomed the addition of Ismar Gomes, award-winning cellist who has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe as soloist, recitalist and chamber musician.

The ensemble performs Christopher Cook's piece, Hubble's Eye. Photo by Tim Bayard.
The season-opening concert also served to introduce first-time audience members to the ensemble’s repertoire as well as the individual talents of its musicians as each performed a solo work showcasing his or her capabilities.

The entire ensemble opened the program with a technically accomplished and courtly rendering of Couperin’s La Sultane, one of the composer’s most colorful instrumental works.

Two members of the ensemble chose to perform works by contemporary composers writing in the “old style.” Violinist Christof Richter captured the fragile delicacy of Alfred Schnittke’s Pantomime, a piece that despite its charming melody features bare, exposed rhythms, striking pizzicati and searing dissonance.

Gomes offered some very impressive playing in works by Benjamin Britten and Luciano Berio. Berio’s Les mots sont alles for solo cello uses as its foundation Britten’s Tema Sacher, a musical rendering of Swiss conductor Paul Sacher’s last name. Gomes’ handling of this complex miniature masterpiece was riveting.

Gomes joined with gambist Donna Fournier for a performance of Jean Daniel Braun’s Sonata Sesta in D major for two bass instruments. It’s not often that two such instruments get paired in a composition, so this was a rare treat indeed. Their beautiful burnished tones produced goosebumps, especially in the slower movements.

Fournier gave a splendid performance of Telemann’s intimate but technically difficult Fantasia in G minor, one of 12 works discovered in 2015.

Harpsichordist and Mélomanie co-artistic director Tracy Richardson gave a spot-on reading of Jacques Duphly’s finely wrought and thoroughly enjoyable Courante (from Book 1) for solo harpsichord.

Flutist Kimberly Reighley (also co-artistic director) offered one of the most interesting pieces of the afternoon. Le Vent a Travers Les Ruines by Yuko Uebayashi. Reighley’s pristine tone and perfect intonation underscored the placid, non-judgmental character of the work, the later stages of which explore the instrument’s lower register as it moves to bring this intriguing work to an understated conclusion.

The ensemble (sans cello) regrouped for the Delaware Premiere of Christopher Cook’s ethereal Hubble’s Eye, a multimedia musical interpretation of the jaw-dropping images taken by the Hubble space telescope.

While one might be tempted to draw comparisons with Holst’s The Planets, Cook has undoubtedly imbued this seven-movement work with his own voice. Saturn is mysterious yet delicate. Mars is definitely a strong character with decisive rhythms and emphatic chords but hardly bellicose. The work exhibits some programmatic elements as well: the harpsichord “climbs and descends” the Mystic Mountain of the Carina Nebula, while the Supernova Bubble is buoyant and whimsical.

The trio of Reighley, Richter and Richardson concluded the event with another Delaware Premiere, Café au Triolet by Cynthia Folio. Folio, a Temple University music professor, wrote the work for Ensemble Triolet, which premiered it in 2016 at the National Flute Association Convention.

The first movement (Caramel Macchiato) takes the instruments out of their comfort zones to explore the full range of their capabilities. Special attention is given to the harpsichord, which Folio says she got to know up close and personal in the harpsichord room at Temple’s Boyer School of Music. The second movement (Café do Brazil) is a lively fugue spiced with Brazilian rhythms and harmonies.