Tuesday, March 11, 2014

An Afternoon of Colorful Music with Mélomanie

By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman
Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, music for film, and music for educational purposes. www.chuckholdeman.com.

 
On Sunday afternoon, March 9 at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts, Mélomanie, Delaware's half-and-half chamber group (half baroque, half new music) played its third performance of its third program of the season. Themed "Ultraviolet," the program celebrated beloved longtime Wilmington Friends School music teacher Violet Richmond with the premiere of Ultraviolet, written in her honor by local composer Mark Hagerty. His piece Context also received its premiere, along with music by 18th Century composers G.P. Telemann and Anna Bon and 20th Century American composer, Alec Wilder. The virtuoso guest percussionist was Chris Hanning — a star in the international drumming firmament, and who, like Mélomanie flutist Kim Reighley, is on the faculty of West Chester University. Reighley also had a big day, performing in all five works on the program. 

Anna Bon di Venezia traveled with her parents as a prodigy, attended the music school where Vivaldi taught, and became a professional in the court in Bayreuth, Germany. While containing few surprises, her D major flute sonata is an extremely well-crafted example of the gallant style, which sounded beautiful on Reighley's wooden baroque flute, balanced so well with its harpsichord and baroque 'cello accompaniment. Telemann's A minor Paris Quartet, which opened the second half, was full of charming surprises, especially in its Coulant (flowing) middle movement — basically a set of variations interspersed with a beautiful ritornello. The unaccompanied flute and violin duet was striking, as was a solo variation, performed by Christof Richter on baroque violin. Viola de gamba player Donna Fournier also got a feature, and the tasteful continuo was provided by harpsichordist Tracy Richardson and Douglas McNames, baroque 'cello.


It was a rare treat to hear two new works by Mark Hagerty, a composer who has contributed so much to Mélomanie's repertoire, including his gorgeous Trois Rivieres, featured on the group's Florescence CD. I confess I'm a fan of Hagerty's work and have poured over his fascinating recordings. So it was a special pleasure to hear two works in which he seems to have broken new ground, also distinguished by the fact that Context and Ultraviolet have a virtually opposite point of view. Both use modern instruments, the former for alto flute and harpsichord, and the latter for the entire Mélomanie quintet with the addition of percussion. 

While Context is slow, meditative, with a limited though arresting arpeggiated harmonic palette, enhanced by the lovely timbres of the two instrumentalists, Ultraviolet has many highly contrasted episodes, and a completely unbuttoned point of view, including a rock-out drum solo, thrillingly improvised by Chris Hanning. But that is only one end of the spectrum, because the work begins and ends with the most delicate sounds of the ocean drum — John Cage would have enjoyed that these sounds balanced well with the building's ventilation system. In between there were numerous well-graded explorations, including a quiet shimmer of strings, delicately accented by metal interjections from a flute, a harpsichord string, or a bowed crotale. How surprising it was when a poetic harpsichord cadenza suddenly morphs into an uptempo ensemble romp, or when Reighley picked up her alto flute for a sensuous duet with the middle eastern doumbek drum. And since the theme was color — or anyway the imagined nuances of light frequencies normally invisible — Hagerty managed to excel with a succession of colorful instrumental combinations, often quasi static, but then bursting into rhythmic complexity. Bravo Mark! 

The program concluded with Alec Wilder's Flute and Bongos 1 and 2, composed in 1958, and still fresh and vital. Wilder wrote jazz standards as well as lots of classical chamber music, and we could hear his sophistication in both worlds. Reighley was virtuosic and Hanning's elaborate bongo drum accompaniment was apt and arresting. The drum part was so together with the flute, and so complicated, that I assumed it was all written out and then executed to perfection. Just now I read the program notes and found that Hanning was improvising — wow!

Mélomanie's next program at DCCA is Sunday, May 11, at 3:00pm. 


See www.melomanie.org

1 comment:

  1. I remember the first time I went to a show and saw my favorite band. I wore their shirt, and sang every word. I think without music, life would be a mistake.

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