Saturday, October 5, 2013

Changes in venue for Mélomanie

Mélomanie is opening their twentieth season with great fanfare at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts.  This local ensemble has been commissioning new works and pairing them with baroque music for two decades and they are just about to launch a pairing with a hip arts center.  After playing for many years in historic Wilmington churches with great resonance and reverberation, the group is going to play in a venue which is more like a public center – a place to meet and greet.  This will present a less formal side of the ensemble and will draw attention to the fact that this group has been a prime mover in commissioning music in this area – an itinerant Delaware center for contemporary music.

The concert on Friday was at the Gore Recital Hall at the Roselle Center for the Arts – an intermediate-sized hall with a modicum of reverberation and, unfortunately, a very powerful and resonant air conditioning system.  Some of the audience who had been used to hearing the group play in stone churches felt that something was missing, yet the clear sounds of the articulation and ornaments in Tracy Richardson’s harpsichord playing was enhanced by the reduction of echo.  Her pristine performance of the Chaconne from Henry Purcell’s opera Dioclesian and the rapid ornaments in the French Suite in B Minor, BWV 814 provided a smooth beginning to introduce the world premiere Michael Stambaugh’s The machine comes to life for solo harpsichord, which Stambaugh introduced with comments on how the harpsichord differs from the piano in both mechanism and sound quality.  He did indeed do his homework for his harpsichord piece,  showing many features, including the harshness of the buff stop on Richardson’s Kingston harpsichord.

Kim Reighley, modern flute and Doug McNames, cello played Michael Colquhoun’s Three for two as one: a suite for flute and cello.  The use of percussive sounds, multiphonics, whistle tones and the weaving of parallel movement made this work particularly striking. 

And if there were any doubts about the acoustical possibilities in Gore Hall, they were dispelled after the intermission with the incredibly wide range of dynamics Christof Richter could produce on baroque violin.  At the beginning of a phrase, the sound was so soft that Mr. Richter’s bow moved before the audience could hear the sound swell in the Sonata in B Minor, BWV 1014 for violin and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach.  And the colors of the sound Donna Fournier produced in the Carl Friedrich Abel Prelude and Allegro from the Suite in D Minor for viola da gamba were so rich and varied that a more resounding hall may have hidden some of those subtleties. 

Jennifer Margaret Barker introduced her world premiere of Le Passage du Temps as a re-composition of the third Bach French Suite which we heard in the first half of the program.  Her inventiveness in weaving the themes of Allemande, Courante, Sarabande and Gigue into an intricately orchestrated re-voicing of the beautiful solo keyboard work was a treat and an exemplary work by one of our local composition professors.  

Let us see what the sound at the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts does to recast this concert on Sunday afternoon.   



  1. Mélomanie's new venue, The Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, is an ideal location for the group's unique and sophisticated sounds. The light, airy space in the DuPont I gallery provided the perfect backdrop for the musicians, who painted the air with the familiar — suites and sonatas by J.S. Bach — to the World Premieres, "The Machine Comes to Life" by Michael Stambaugh and "Le Passage du Temps" by Jennifer Margaret Barker.

    As usual, the group's concert was entertaining and dynamic, with wonderful commentary by the composers. Michael Stambaugh discussed how his research of harpsichord technique and contemporary composers shaped his writing process, and ultimately led him to the music Mark Hagerty, one of the group's frequent guest composers. Jennifer Margaret Barker, Stambaugh's graduate school professor, gave interesting details on her work, "Le Passage Du Temps" — a "re-composition" of J.S. Bach's "French Suite No. 3," which Tracy Richardson had played beautifully at the beginning of the program.

    Creativity, flexibility and, of course, solid musicianship are what make Mélomanie's performances so worthwhile!

  2. I still can't get over Avery Fisher! That place was like seeing a barn. Actually, a barn might sound better! This place is at least thousand times better!