Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mélomanie at Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church

By Chuck Holdeman, Guest Blogger

Chuck is a composer, a bassoonist, and a faculty member of the Music School of Delaware. He lives in Wilmington with a studio in Philadelphia. His website is

Sunday afternoon, April 18, witnessed a beautiful concert by Wilmington-based Mélomanie, the ensemble devoted to Baroque period instruments and to new music by regional composers. On this occasion, the group was presented by Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church, across the road from Winterthur, and the Hadley Memorial Fund, which provided free admission.

The illness of violinist Fran Berge necessitated a program change with the welcome addition of substitute fiddler, Christof Richter of Philadelphia. The ensemble drew from its repertoire, saving ‘til next season Mark Rimple’s Partita 622, which will also be included in the group’s recording project of five new works, all commissioned by Mélomanie.

J. P. Rameau’s first Pièce de Clavecin en Concert opened the program, with music written for the court of the King Louis, the one right before the French revolution. The music is mannered, precious, and charming, also with daring juxtapositions of texture and mood, quite unlike Rameau’s contemporaries. Featuring harpsichordist Tracy Richardson, the grouping was completed by flute, violin, and Donna Fournier’s viola da gamba.

Two solo pieces followed: Mark Hagerty’s Sea Level for solo flute, played by Kim Reighley on the luscious-sounding alto flute, and Bach’s G-major suite for ‘cello, performed with infectious musicality and individuality by Doug McNames. Hagerty’s work displays arresting harmony despite being for an instrument that can only play one note at a time, also referring indirectly to the evocative poetry of its historical antecedent, Syrinx by Debussy.

As Hagerty had, composer Ingrid Arauco introduced her piece, Florescence (blooming) for flute and harpsichord. She expressed gratitude for the multiple performances given by these players, such that each time the sounds merge, clarify, and increasingly express Arauco’s intentions. In three short movements, Florescence shows how an essentially atonal language can be gentle, colorful, and intimate.

The program concluded with Telemann’s Paris Quartet in e minor, played by all five musicians, more mannered music in the French style, though composed by one of the principal masters of the German Baroque. One movement was called “Distrait” (inattentive) in which the witty Telemann created disorienting syncopations. Despite the work’s lightness, he ends with a weighty and sophisticated chaconne.

It was gratifying to see a large and appreciative crowd, and a slightly different one from Mélomanie’s downtown series. May the sounds of this excellent ensemble find even more satisfied ears, in Delaware and beyond!

Coming up: harpsichordist Tracy Richardson and gambist Donna Fournier will present a program for the First & Central Noontime Concert series, Thursday, April 22, at 12:30 PM, 11th and Market Streets in Wilmington. I am especially pleased that their program will include the premiere of my composition, Six Preludes for solo harpsichord.


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