Monday, February 1, 2010

Two world premieres

Mélomanie played two new works on January 30! To think that a small local group can commission works in these hard times is nothing short of great – and they used a little inventive cooperation to do so. Elaine Funaro, harpsichordist who also heads up a non-profit organization in Durham, North Carolina, which promotes new music for harpsichord (, joined forces with Mélomanie to commission a new work by Sergio Roberto de Oliveira.

Oliveira’ s work, Angico, was a vivid descriptive piece of the acacia tree which survived a threatened felling. The story gives a vehicle for Oliveira to evoke Brazil with bird songs, angry workers, and traditional rhythms. He skillfully orchestrated his motives on cello, harpsichord, violin and flute. My favorite movement was The construction into which he snuck a few habañera rhythms.

Mark Hagerty’s piece, After Duchamp, was a provocation in keeping with the provocative pairings Mélomanie strives to achieve. He tackled the spirit of Marcel Duchamp’s statement: “I have forced myself to contradict myself in order to avoid conforming to my own taste.” Hagerty decided to go against his natural tendency to write long and serious pieces. For Duchamp, he wrote a frivolous and jocular set of vignettes for harpsichord. His program notes set up the facetious objectives: ‘bird/anger: Two totally unrelated ideas that do not interact musically’ and ‘Werk ohne Opus’ where he takes on the established music world’s pretensions. But how do you praise a composer who is working against his own taste? Do you tell him he achieved the bad taste he was seeking?

And paired with the exciting new pieces were six fugues from Bach’s Art of the Fugue played with subtle dynamics and intonations. The group also played four movements from Louis de Caix d’Hervelois’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for flute and continuo in which they allowed themselves a joyous mood of the dances. Their next performance will be March 13, 2010 at Grace United Methodist Church.


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