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.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Renowned Local Artist Honored With Ceremonial Street Renaming

The content of this post comes from a City Of Wilmington press release...

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki was joined Tuesday, October 9, by City Council Members Samuel Guy, Zanthia Oliver and Rysheema Dixon, as well as family and community members to ceremonially rename a street in honor of the late Wilmington-born artist Edward L. Loper, Sr. On hand for the street sub-naming ceremony, held in the 1200 block of North Heald Street where Loper was raised, were Loper’s son, Edward L. Loper Jr., and two grandchildren – Jamie Loper and Steve Washington. Mayor Purzycki signed an Executive Order renaming the block on Wilmington’s East Side as “Edward Loper Way.” 
Jamie Loper, Council Member Samuel Guy, Edward L. Loper Jr., Steve Washington,
Mayor 
Purzycki, Council Member Zanthia Oliver and Council Member Rysheema Dixon. 


Restating his words as expressed in the Executive Order, Mayor Purzycki said today that Edward Loper, who gained national acclaim and received numerous awards and accolades throughout his life, gave back to the community by teaching for over sixty years, helping countless aspiring artists to “see color.”

“Wilmington is pleased to honor individuals such as Edward Loper who have significantly and positively affected our City’s history and culture through their exemplary accomplishments,” said the Mayor. “Mr. Loper, a self-taught artist who went on to become a nationally recognized painter and teacher, deserves this honor for his many contributions to the quality of life of our community.”

Born in 1916 in Wilmington, Edward L. Loper, Sr. grew up on North Heald Street on the city’s East Side. Inspired by fellow Delaware artists Andrew Wyeth and Howard Pyle, Mr. Loper taught himself to paint. In 1937, he became the first African-American to enter the Annual Delaware Exhibition at the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts, where he won an honorable mention award and, a year later, won the first prize.

In 1945, Mr. Loper gained national acclaim when his works were included in the historic exhibition “The Negro Artist Comes of Age” at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Mr. Loper became a nationally recognized artist whose paintings are displayed in numerous distinguished museums and are celebrated for their vibrant use of color. He also received many accolades and awards throughout his life, including an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts, an Honorary Degree of Humane Letters, and the Governor’s Award for the Arts.

Monday, October 8, 2018

A Musical "Thank You" from Music School's All-Star Orchestra

By Christine Facciolo
Select member of The Music School of Delaware faculty with a little help from Rossini, Bach and Mozart, opened the school’s 2018-19 season on Wednesday, October 3, with a concert thanking donors and fans for their support.

The Music School's string chamber orchestra featured faculty and guest artists.
This short but very sweet program opened with Rossini’s String Sonata No. 3 in C major. Rossini wrote the six string sonatas at the age of 12, in the space of three days in 1804 at the home of a wealthy grain merchant. Years later, the composer confessed he didn’t think they would have amounted to anything but wrapping for salami when in fact they had already proven to be perennially popular.

Granted these sunny compositions are the “light music” of their time, but there’s no mistaking the talent that produced them. Like its siblings, this is a delightful work played here by a group that clearly enjoyed it. Brief solo passages were ably executed by violinists Amos Fayette, Lingchin Liao, cellist Jennifer Stomberg and guest bassist Arthur Marks.

J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C minor delivered a more serious tone. Though the original manuscript to this concerto was lost, a reconstruction was possible because in 1736 Bach had arranged it as the Concerto for Two Harpsichords and Orchestra (BWV 1060), a work whose score had survived and served as a model for the original.

Soloists Christof Richter (violin) and Meredith Hite Estevez (oboe) captured the rhythmic vibrancy and catchy themes of the first movement and by contrast, the dreamy serenity of the Adagio second movement. The sense of energetic playfulness returned for the finale, as the soloists engage in essential contrapuntal commentary and other colorful writing.

Mozart’s perennially popular Eine Kleine Nachtmusic provided a pleasant post-intermission palette-cleanser to the Bach. The superbly disciplined ensemble served up as fine a performance as one could wish for with a mixture of legato, springing exuberance and elegant phrasing that produced a most delightful result.

The concert ended the way it opened, with a Rossini string sonata 
 this time, No. 2 in A major. It, too, exhibited the lightness and humor that would be evident in much of the composer’s mature work as well as his distinct gift for melody. There was something a bit more earnest and serious about No. 2 but still eminently enjoyable and beautifully played.

See www.musicschoolofdelaware.org.